The Sino-Indian border is divided into three sectors. The western sector is Askai Chin, the central sector is where China shares a border with Indian states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh and eastern sector is from Sikkim to Arunachal Pradesh. Let us have a look at Chinese border issues with Sikkim. India deposed the king of Sikkim in 1975 and manipulated the country’s parliament into a referendum to make Sikkim a state of India. China did not recognise the forceful occupation of Sikkim by India. Sikkim is important because of its strategic location as it shares a border with Nepal, Bhutan and 204 kilometres with Chinese Tibet. Historically, Sikkim is seat of Tibetan Buddhism Rumtek monastery, one of the most important leaders in Tibetan Buddhism. People with faith in Tibetan Buddhism also live in Sikkim. Nathu La (14200 feet) is an important pass which connects Sikkim with Chinese Tibet thereby providing a short route to Indian pilgrims to sacred Mount Kailash Manasarovar. China holds the northern shoulder of the pass while the Indian army holds the southern shoulder. From Nathu La, the capital of Tibet Lhasa is at a distance of 425 kilometres. India has an airport at Pakyong in Sikkim located closer to strategic Chumbi Valley (China), Siliguri Corridor and Bhutan. Serious clashes took place here in 1967 which resulted in heavy Indian casualties. It remained peaceful after 1967 clashes and flared up in 2017 when India obstructed construction of a road within Chinese boundaries.

At present, one-third of Doklam Plateau is under Chinese control, and complete control of plateau means Chinese occupying high ground which will facilitate rolling down on Bhutan in no time and will also facilitate China’s move down south to Siliguri Corridor. The most important valley in the region is Chinese Chumbi Valley, a narrow valley projecting towards the tri-junction point of Sikkim, Bhutan and China pointed like a dagger towards the tri-junction point. The distance from tri-junction to Siliguri Corridor is 50 kilometres. The Chinese development of infrastructure in the valley towards the south will have serious consequences for India. India involved itself to the issue because of its apparent threat to Indian national security.

For India, Chumbi valley is like a dagger which may cut and seal the Siliguri Corridor from north eastern states. A brigade size force is stationed at Ha valley of Bhutan by India to monitor and counter any Chinese movement in the valley. Down south the most important and strategically important is Siliguri Corridor (Chicken’s Neck) which connects eight north eastern Indian states and over five crore people. In the 18th century, Siliguri Corridor was first under the suzerainty of Sikkim and then Nepal and later came under British control. At present, Siliguri Corridor is part of district Darjeeling of west Bengal famous for three ‘Ts’, tea, timber and tourism. The corridor is 200 kilometres long and at its narrowest it is just 17 kilometres wide, which connects main land with north eastern states and five countries that have links and influence in the region. Earlier, the region was also known as “seven sister states” before the inclusion of Sikkim in the region. The region comprises Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland. Tripura and Sikkim. The people of north east India had been branded “outcastes” in the Hindu caste system. It is the most volatile and insurgency affected region after Indian Occupied Kashmir and the demand of all states is independence from India. There are over 120 militant groups operating in the region and there is large scale violence. If China occupies Siliguri Corridor, it will cut off all logistics support to the north east and will boost and encourage the separatist movements in the region towards declaring independence. Already fragile north eastern states can be cut by Chinese army as India did to former East Pakistan.

The Siliguri Corridor is a gateway to Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and north east India. Nepal lies 10 kilometres from Bogdonga, Bhutan 40 kilometres to the north east and China is 180 kilometres at Nathu la and Bangladesh joins at Phulburi. Through the Siliguri Corridor runs a roads and railway network to the north east and troops deployed in the north east are entirely dependent on the corridor for logistic supplies. During 1962, China tried to approach Siliguri Corridor from Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh) after its capture and also showed its presence across Sikkim as well. During the 1962 war, the Indian army shifted its troops deployed against Pakistan (Punjab border) to the defence of the corridor. The corridor is heavily defended, besides Indian army, the corridor is defended and patrolled by the Assam Rifles, the Border Security Force and the West Bengal Police. The corridor has two major air bases at Bagdogra and Hashimara. In case if the corridor is occupied by China, then alternative connectivity to the north east is only possible through Bangladesh and Myanmar. For that, India has to enter into a pact with Bangladesh to use their territory through rail and road as alternative link. This is unlikely and not possible as a sovereign country will never allow use of its territory against a friendly country. At the same time, India has shown its concern over growing influence of China over Bangladesh and Myanmar who have joined Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects. Myanmar is already linked with China through Yunnan province of China. The BJP-RSS led government is pursuing a policy where there is no room for friendly and warm relations with neighbouring countries. Indian hegemonic designs are cause of serious concerns to all of its neighbours. In any future confrontation, the “chicken’s neck” will be a target beyond any doubt and this vulnerability will be exploited to cut the north east India from the mainland.