|One of our favorite getaways is to the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Development progress there is measured in the "gross national happiness" index rather than the traditional "gross national product" indicator followed by the rest of the world. One can judge from our smiles below that we have acclimated well to the Bhutanese measure.
The tranquility of Bhutan has been disrupted for the past several months. In a remote area of Bhutan, a confrontation has arisen between the tiny country's big and sometimes bellicose neighbors, China and India. Thousands of Chinese and Indian troops have massed in a border point designated as Bhutan between the two countries. It seems to be another location that had been quiet for many years and accepted as part of Bhutan. However, China has stoked tensions by building a road towards a protectorate Indian army base. The Chinese certainly do not follow the adage of "let sleeping dogs lie."
The map makes the area look quite benign which belies the beauty and serenity of the setting.
Moreover, as you might suspect, building a road in these mountains is not a simple undertaking.
For several months, both Indian and Chinese troops have been at a close-range stalemate with no shots being fired despite several scuffles. The Chinese claims are analogous to their actions in the South China Sea-push as long and hard as you can on bogus territorial claims until someone pushes back. Therefore, tensions were moving toward the level of the bloody Chinese/Indian conflict of 1962. The bit of real estate under question has been likened to an Achilles heel of India relative to its security vis-a-vis China.
The conflict was made a bit more absurd when the Chinese state news agency, Xinhua, released a video critical of New Delhi with a Chinese actor mimicking an Indian wearing a turban, augmented by a fake beard and bobbing his head.
As is often the case, China offered a $10 billion economic assistance package to sway Bhutan's view of its claimed territory. Such action also complicates the special relationship Bhutan has had with India which supports Bhutan's historic claim with Indian troops stationed nearby. In the meantime, both India and China have agreed to withdraw their troops within the next month or so, but certainly by year-end.
Over the years, India has had a close commercial and governmental relationship with Bhutan representing a major trade partner and outlet for Bhutanese agricultural products -- most notably potatoes and hydro-power sold to India. Therefore, one must be wary of Chinese offering a $10 billion package that might help gross national product but ultimately destroy the gross national happiness index.