Bhutan and China make progress in border talks
As Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Bhutan’s Tandi Dorji met in Beijing on Tuesday, the two countries held their 25th round of boundary talks, which have been postponed since the previous round in 2016. Both sides expressed a desire for a deal on boundary demarcation to be finalized “soon.”
What is the Delimitation and Demarcation process?
- A boundary is defined and established by two distinct procedures, namely demarcation and delimitation:
The formal procedure by which two independent countries determine their shared border’s location and record it in writing. Usually, decisions made during negotiations lead to this.
The process of mapping the border and placing boundary markers on the ground in the field. This entails using tangible items, such as walls, signs, and fences, to designate a boundary.
What is the history behind the Bhutan and China?
- A history of boundary conflicts exists between China and Bhutan. China made three claims to Bhutan in the 1950s: Doklam in the west, close to India, and Pasamlung and Jakarlung in the north, close to Tibet. China thought that “imperial India” was “wrongly” holding Bhutan and other Himalayan frontier states.
- Tibet was invaded by China in 1950, which resulted in a wave of refugees. An estimated 6,000 Tibetans were granted shelter by Bhutan. Then, out of concern for more refugees, Bhutan closed its border with China.
- China seized 300 square kilometres of Bhutan in 1958. This increased fears of a Chinese invasion even further. Bhutan’s policy of isolation came to an end in 1958 upon the visit of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
- Bhutan and China did not have diplomatic ties. Since 1950, the border between China and Bhutan has been closed.
What is the Relationship between India And Bhutan?
- Bhutan and India have a rich cultural history that is shaped by several traditions, including Buddhism and Hinduism.
- Travellers from Bhutan routinely travel to India to visit a variety of sacred and cultural locations, such as Sikkim, Rajgir, and Bodh Gaya.
- Bhutan has continuously backed India’s growth and modernization and was among the first countries to acknowledge India’s statehood in 1947.
- The 1949 Treaty of Friendship, which was later amended in 2007, has promoted a peaceful relationship in which both parties refrain from meddling in one another’s domestic affairs.
- To protect Bhutan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, India has supported Bhutan in sectors like defence, infrastructure, and communication.
- To fend off Chinese advances, Bhutan permitted Indian forces to enter its territory during the 2017 Doklam standoff between India and China.
- A free trade agreement was established by the 1972–2016 revised India–Bhutan Agreement on Trade, Commerce, and Transit.
What are the key lines discussed in the 25th round of Boundary talks?
- Long-Stalled Talks: Bhutan and China held their 25th round of boundary negotiations, ending a standoff that had existed since the round in 2016.
- Bhutan’s Foreign Minister’s Visit: The significance of this event was demonstrated by the visit of Bhutan’s Foreign Minister, Tandi Dorji, who paid his first official visit to China.
- Joint Technical Team (JTT): During the discussions, a “Cooperation Agreement” that outlined the JTT’s operations was signed. As agreed upon in August, this team is in charge of the “Delimitation and Demarcation of the Bhutan-China Boundary”.
- Diplomatic Relations: China conveyed its desire for Bhutan and China to establish diplomatic relations. When it comes to forging diplomatic relations with any nation that is a Permanent Member (P-5) of the UN Security Council, Bhutan has been cautious.
- Agreement with Roadmap: Dr Lotay Tshering, the prime minister of Bhutan, stated that the two nations were moving forward with a three-step roadmap for defining borders. This road map calls for reaching a consensus on border delineation, travelling to the actual line, and ultimately formally drawing the border.
- Siliguri Corridor: The talks have garnered a lot of interest in India because any agreement between China and Bhutan may have an impact on the country’s “Siliguri Corridor.” The northeastern states of India are connected to the rest of the nation by this small stretch of land.
What is India’s Stand on the issue?
- India’s Observation: India has been keeping a close eye on these discussions because of their potential effects on security, notably in the area around the Doklam region, which is close to India’s “Siliguri corridor.”
- Indian Ministry Denies Remark: Regarding the visit of the Bhutanese Foreign Minister to China, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) refrained from making any formal statements.
Where is Siliguri Corridor located and what is the significance of the place to India?
- The Siliguri Corridor, also known as the Chicken’s Neck, is located in West Bengal, India. The eight states of northeastern India are connected to the rest of the nation by this 60 km long and 20 km wide landmass. The kingdom of Bhutan borders the corridor on its northern side, with Nepal and Bangladesh on its other two sides.
- The trade, business, and tourist industries in West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh are significantly impacted by the Siliguri Corridor. It’s also an important route following the 2017 Doklam crisis between China and India.
- The corridor holds strategic importance for India since its conquest would allow the Chinese to cut off all seven states from the country. Major airbases, as well as numerous Army, ITBP, BSF, and SSB sites, are located along the route. The responsibility of borders is divided between:
- Army and ITBP for China
- SSB for Nepal and Bhutan
- BSF with Bangladesh
- The corridor is a cartographic relic from the British decolonial process.
What is the way forward from future conflicts?
- cooperation to advance stability and common interests in regional multilateral platforms.
- promoting open dialogue to reduce border tensions between China, Bhutan, and India.
- addressing issues with hydropower projects with communication and making sure conditions are favourable to both parties.
- forming a joint committee to develop sustainable policies that strike a balance between the preservation of the environment and cultural heritage and economic interests.
- fostering relationships between education and skill development by offering training courses and scholarships to improve the qualifications of professionals from Bhutan.
The importance of the recent boundary negotiations between China and Bhutan, as well as the cooperation agreement, diplomatic ties, India’s monitoring, and possible security ramifications, are all explained in detail by these points.