India’s conciliatory stance towards China in the aftermath of the 2017 Doklam crisis has led to a deterioration of the strategic situation at the India-Bhutan-China trijunction. Our analysis uses satellite imagery to show that:
- With China being prevented from extending its constructions westward following the 2017 crisis, the axis of Chinese activity has shifted towards Southeast Doklam.
- From 2019 onwards, China began to build roads and permanent structures along the Amo Chu River in Bhutan. This is a clear repetition of China’s South China Sea strategy of occupying territory through unilateral constructions.
- The new sites are strategically significant, allowing China to potentially outflank Indian positions and threaten the Siliguri Corridor, acting as a permanent “threat in being” to India’s political leadership.
- In the absence of a more decisive stance, India risks even more territorial incursions by China, which will further alienate traditional allies such as Bhutan.