A motorable track at the heart of the continuing dispute between India and China on the border in Sikkim was being extended from a point in the Dolam plateau till where the Chinese had already laid it in 2003, according to sources familiar with the area. The sources said this is a Class-5 Operational Track — a dirt track that is not blacktopped and fit to ply a vehicle such as a jeep or a small truck — connecting Asan, 20 km away, to a point short of Torsa Nala in the Dolam plateau, which is also called Doklam. The track ends in a wider area to allow vehicles to turn and return to Asan, which is connected by a black-top road to the Tibetan town of Yatung.
When the Chinese forces were stopped by the Indian soldiers at the turning point on June 16, they were trying to extend the track by approximately another 3 km up to Gymochen. The Chinese would have to go further east and south from the turning point to reach Gymochen or Jampheri Ridge, on which Gymochen lies, the sources said. China claims Gymochen to be the tri-junction between the borders of India, Bhutan and China. India and Bhutan believe the three borders meet at a place around 6.5 km north, close to Batang La. India claims China is making the track on Bhutanese territory but China believes this to be its territory.
India considers Jampheri ridge, which lies in Bhutan, to be of military importance and is insistent on denying China access to it. There is a single Bhutanese Army post at Jampheri ridge called Chela Post. Indian and Bhutanese military patrols link at Jampheri ridge every month.
The Chinese Army has been regularly sending patrols up to Torsa Nala, and rarely up to Jampheri ridge. There was tension in the area in 2007 when the Chinese had destroyed an Indian self help bunker below Gurmel OP, which was not reconstructed thereafter. Nearly 300-350 Indian soldiers are positioned on the plateau since June 16 at a distance of around 150 metres from the Chinese soldiers.
The Indian soldiers are from the Nathu La brigade while the Chinese soldiers are from 6 Border Guards battalion. The two sides have moved their earth-moving equipment in the area, which was highlighted in a photograph released by the Chinese foreign ministry last week.