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Bhutan, China claim progress in boundary expert group talks

This article discusses recent talks between Bhutan and China aimed at resolving their boundary dispute. (Source: The Hindu, 27.05.2023)

Context:

Bhutan and China recently had talks in Thimphu to resolve their boundary dispute. They discussed a “three-step roadmap” to address the issue, and both sides expressed confidence in this plan. They emphasized the need for more frequent meetings to make progress. Although they didn’t set a date for the next round of talks, they agreed to hold them as soon as possible at mutually convenient dates.

What are the key highlights of the talks?

  • The talks were held in a friendly atmosphere, reflecting the close friendship between Bhutan and China.
  • The fact that the 12th round of talks happened quickly after the previous round suggests a faster pace of development in the negotiations. The decision to hold the next meeting in Beijing instead of Kunming or Thimphu could also indicate progress.
  • The Bhutanese delegation was led by Secretary of International Boundaries Letho Tobdhen Tangbi, and the Chinese delegation was led by Director-General Hong Liang. Both sides expressed satisfaction with the progress made in implementing the roadmap agreed upon in October 2021.

What is the historical background of boundary talks between Bhutan and China?

The Boundary Talks between Bhutan and China started in 1984, with the 24th round held in 2016. Bhutan and China signed two agreements in 1988 and 1998 to guide their talks and maintain peace along the border. However, the Doklam incident involving the Indian and Chinese armies has stalled the talks since 2016. Bhutan has been monitoring the resolution of India-China differences along their border before considering trilateral talks.

What are its implications on India?

While not directly involved in these talks, the developments keep India informed. Any discussions regarding the trijunction area at Doklam would involve India as well. The recent talks in Thimphu followed Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck’s visit to India, during which the latest developments with China were likely discussed. India is concerned about any agreement between China and Bhutan that involves swapping territories, especially near India’s “Siliguri corridor,” which connects its northeastern states to the rest of the country.

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