As China is now fixing its eyes on Bhutan by declaring a Bhutanese wildlife sanctuary along their border as a disputed territory, Bhutan swiftly jumped to its feet and issued a demarche to China.
The demarche was a follow-up to protests earlier against Beijing’s attempt to make a non-dispute into a quarrel.
At the 58th Global Environment Facility Council held in June, the Chinese raised objections to the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary project and argued that it was in a disputed area between China and Bhutan. Sakteng lies in a zone of Bhutan that borders Arunachal Pradesh and China. At the meeting, Bhutan strongly objected to the references made by China against its sovereignty.
The Chinese claim coincided with the People’s Liberation Army’s belligerence along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh and elsewhere in the South China Sea and East China Sea.
The GEF Secretariat objected to the Chinese claim and made it clear that Sakteng was well within Bhutan. When the Chinese representative insisted that Beijing’s objections should be recorded, the GEF agreed to do so in a diluted fashion.
Subsequently, the GEF went ahead with finalising the summary of the meeting despite China’s demand for strong references to Sakteng.
The Bhutan government later issued a formal letter to the GEF, strongly opposing references that questioned the country’s sovereignty.
Thimphu has made it clear that Sakteng is Bhutan’s sovereign territory and that there is no dispute. Bhutan has urged the GEF to purge all references to China’s baseless claims from the council’s documents.