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Why is China trying to break India’s Chicken Neck? Understand Siliguri Corridor & Doklam through the map

Why is China trying to break India’s Chicken Neck? Understand Siliguri Corridor & Doklam through the map

Relevance

  • GS 2 || International Relations || India & its Neighbours || China

What does a strategically important area mean?

  • If a place is of “strategic importance“, it usually means it is vital to the military and economic wellness of a country.
  • These places become targets during times of warfare. In times of peace, efforts are made to improve the infrastructure of these locations.

Important Factors

  • Several factors make a place “of strategic importance.”  The geographic location of a place is important.  
  • Infrastructure– Places located near major lines of transportation are usually vital.  In the past, that would have meant coasts or rivers, but today can mean highway, rail, or air routes.
  • Resource-rich- Larger populated areas have value because of the human resources available.
  • Manufacturing centers are also considered strategically important, especially in times of warfare.
    • A place could be of strategic importance if there is a wealth of resources in the area, particularly resources that can be used for manufacturing.

India itself a strategic location

  • India’s strategic location at the head of the Indian Ocean gives it great strategic importance and helps in maintaining contact with the rest of the world.
  • It helps India to keep close contact with West Asia, Europe, West Africa from the western coast, and Southeast and East Asia from the eastern coast.
  • It is also an important transit sea route connecting the two regions i.e countries of Europe with countries of East Asia.
  • India has an important position in international sea routes making it potentially powerful as the country has the longest coastline on the Indian ocean.

Siliguri corridor

  • The thin “chicken’s neck” is a territory connecting the seven Indian North-eastern States to West Bengal and the rest of India also called the “Siliguri Corridor.
  • The Siliguri Corridor is a cartographic relic of the British decolonization process is a terrifyingly vulnerable artery in India’s Geography.
  • The Siliguri Corridor is a narrow stretch of land about 22 km and 60 km long is located around the city of Siliguri in West Bengal. With plain terrain not interspersed with any natural or man-made obstacles, this patch makes defense a real challenge.

Why is it precarious?

  • Acts as Gateway to N-E Region
    • The Siliguri Corridor in the northern part of West Bengal that acts as a gateway to North-East, Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh has been confronting lots of security challenges.
    • Some recent developments, both inside India and in the neighboring countries, could have far-reaching implications for this sensitive border region.
  • Trade- All land trade between North-East India’s 40 million denizens and the rest of the country traverses the Siliguri owing to the lack of a free-trade agreement between India and Bangladesh.
  • Further reinforcing the strategic precariousness of the region is the fact that there is one railway line that carries rail-based freight across the Siliguri.

Threat from China

  • Infrastructure development of china in nearby areas
    • The threat to the Siliguri corridor is perennial as China has continued its overt road and airstrip construction activities on its side of the border.
    • This could allow China to rapidly mobilize and deploy troops thereby threatening the Siliguri corridor.
  • Jeopardizing India’s efforts
    • Furthermore, the deployment of artillery, missiles, or anti-aircraft weaponry could easily jeopardize India’s efforts to resupply the region in times of war, especially considering that there is only a single railway line through the region to NE states.

Ladakh 

  • Ladakh is also known as “the Land of Passes‟ is the largest in the area among the regions viz., Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh with an area of 95,876 km2.The region is administered by India as a union territory.
  • Location
    • Lying between the Kunlun mountain range in the north and the Himalayas to the south, Ladakh was originally inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent.
    • Located at the crossroads of important trade routes since ancient times, Ladakh has always enjoyed great geostrategic importance.
  • Historically the region included the valleys of Baltistan, Indus, and Nubra, besides Zanskar, Lahaul and Spiti, Aksai Chin, Ngari, and Rudok.
  • Pangong Tso- The contested lake
    • This lake, which is one-third in India and two-thirds in China, is of great tactical significance to the Chinese who have built infrastructure along both its sides to ensure the speedy build-up of troops.
    • Chinese incursions in this region aim at shifting the LAC westward so that they can occupy important heights both on the north and the south of the lake, which will enable them to dominate the Chushul Bowl.
    • The narrow Chushul valley, which lies on the road to Leh with Pangong Tso to its north, was an important target for the Chinese even during the 1962 war. It was here that the Battle of Chushul was fought.

Pakistan and China border dispute

  • Ladakh became a contested territory between the newly independent nations of India and Pakistan. In the early 1960s, a substantial area of eastern Ladakh was annexed by China.
  • Due to increasing tensions between India and Pakistan, the Chinese invasion of Tibet in the 1950s, and their occupation of the Aksai Chin region in 1962, Ladakh has become one of India’s most important strategic zones.
  • Strategic location and border disputes with Pakistan and China have assured a firm foothold for army presence for the past 50 years.

Significance

  • Geopolitical Significance
    • The land of Ladakh enjoys the significance of being located at the ancient Silk Route which passes through these regions and played a very vital role in the development of culture, religion, philosophy, trade, and commerce in the past.
  • Geostrategic location
    • The presence of resources is what makes India, China, and Pakistan struggle over Ladakh, to gain control over resources in this region. Pakistan and China are in conflict with India over Siachen and Aksai chin in this region. Ladakh’s geostrategic significance has increased in the backdrop of these conflicts.

Dokhlam

  • Doklam (or Zhonglan or Donglong) is a disputed area between China and Bhutan just like Jakarlung and Pasamlung. It is an area with a plateau and a valley that lies on the Bhutan-China border, near India.
  • India has signed a Friendship Treaty with Bhutan (renewed in 2007) which drives India to intervene for the goodwill of Bhutan among many other provisions.
  • Also, Bhutan asked for India’s help to protect its interest in Doklam from Chinese intervention.

Significance for India, China, and Bhutan

  • The area of Doklam carries a huge military advantage and if it falls into the hands of China, it will not only compromise the security of Bhutan but also of India.
  • The access to the Tri-junction area (via road from Doklam) would give China easy access to transportation of war machinery such as tanks and vehicles to the border of India.
  • In this case, if a war breaks out between India and China, the latter will have an upper hand at conquering the Chickens Neck of India as well as the whole of the North-Eastern region of the country.

Siachen glacier

  • The Siachen Glacier is located in the Eastern Karakoram range in the Himalayas, just northeast of Point NJ9842 where the Line of Control between India and Pakistan ends. It is the Second-Longest glacier in the World’s Non-Polar areas.
  • The Siachen Glacier lies immediately south of the great drainage divide that separates the Eurasian Plate from the Indian subcontinent in the extensively glaciated portion of the Karakoram sometimes called the “Third Pole”.
  • The entire Siachen Glacier, with all major passes, is currently under the administration of India since 1984 (Operation Meghdoot).
  • The Siachen Glacier is part of Ladakh which has now been converted into a Union Territory. The Siachen Glacier is the world’s highest battlefield.

Indo-Pacific

  • It is a recent concept. It was about a decade ago that the world started talking about the Indo-Pacific but its rise has been quite significant.
  • One of the reasons behind the popularity of this term is an understanding that the Indian Ocean and the Pacific are linked strategic theaters.
    • It has around 40% of the world’s oil and gas reserves and controls a large quantum of global trade.
  • Maritime routes
    • Also, the centre of gravity has shifted to Asia. The reason being maritime routes, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific provide sea lanes. The majority of the world’s trade passes through these oceans.
  • The Indo-Pacific region includes the world’s four big economies: the USA, China, Japan, and India.
  • The region is critical for global trade and commerce, as it links the West to the East.

Significance for India

  • The Indian peninsula lies surrounded by the Indian Ocean on its three sides, a reality that has strategic implications.
  • India imports 70 % of its oil requirements, which is met through maritime imports.
  • Almost 95 % of Indian trade moves by sea, and the living marine resources help in achieving food security.
  • With India moving towards a Blue Economy-the stability, peace and sustainability are essential for India’s growth and development.

Threat  from China

  • China has been a threat to the Asia Pacific countries and is posing threat to Indian interests in the Indian Ocean as well.
  • China has a hold over Hambantota port (Sri Lanka), which is just a few hundred miles off the shores of India.
  • China is supplying military equipment to India’s neighbors such as submarines to Myanmar, a frigate to Sri Lanka, equipment to Bangladesh and Thailand, thus, in a way, colonizing the region.
  • Terrorism and the fear of assertion in the region are major threats to the Indo-Pacific region.

Mains model question

  • Demonstrate the strategic importance of multiple countries present in the Indian Ocean. Also, why is the Indian Ocean becoming a battleground?

References