China, Bhutan officials meet in Kunming, agree to ‘push forward’ boundary talks

Negotiations have focused broadly on two areas of dispute – Doklam and areas along the western borders of Bhutan and near the India-China-Bhutan trijunction, and the Jakarlung and Pasamlung valleys along Bhutan’s northern borders.

January 14, 2023 10:23 am | Updated 01:05 pm IST - Beijing

Kupup, the closest point to Doklam.

Kupup, the closest point to Doklam. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Officials from China and Bhutan on Friday, January 13, 2022 agreed to “push forward” a three-step roadmap as an expert group meeting held boundary talks in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming.

A joint release said the two sides “had an in-depth exchange of views on implementing the MOU on the Three-Step Roadmap for Expediting the China-Bhutan Boundary Negotiations, and reached positive consensus.”

The Bhutan delegation, led by Dasho Letho Tobdhen Tangbi, Secretary of the International Boundaries of Bhutan, met with a Chinese delegation led by Hong Liang, Director General of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, from Tuesday to Friday.

Also read |Bhutan-China ties won’t harm India’s interests: Bhutan Foreign Minister

Both sides “agreed to simultaneously push forward the implementation of all the steps of the Three-Step Roadmap” as well as “increase the frequency of the expert group meetings and to keep contact through diplomatic channels on holding the 25th Round of China-Bhutan Boundary talks as soon as possible”, the release said.

Following the talks, both sides held a handover ceremony for Chinese donations of supplies, it added.

Bhutan and China in October 2021 signed an agreement on a “Three-Step Roadmap For Expediting the Bhutan-China Boundary Negotiations”. Bhutan’s Foreign Ministry said then the MoU on the Three-Step Roadmap would “provide a fresh impetus to the Boundary Talks.”

So far, 11 expert group meetings and 24 rounds of talks have been held since the process began in 1984.

Negotiations in the 24 rounds have focused broadly on two areas of dispute – Doklam and areas along the western borders of Bhutan and near the India-China-Bhutan trijunction, and the Jakarlung and Pasamlung valleys along Bhutan’s northern borders.

However, China has recently appeared to broaden the scope of the dispute by also bringing in areas along Bhutan’s eastern borders in Sakteng wildlife sanctuary, which borders India’s state of Arunachal Pradesh. The Chinese Foreign Ministry subsequently referred to disputes in “western, middle and eastern” sections.

Some observers viewed that move as a pressure tactic to push Bhutan to accept China’s earlier reported offer of a swap of Doklam in the west, which Beijing views strategically, in exchange for Bhutan to retain its northern territories.

The western areas, measuring 269 sq km, are a particularly sensitive bone of contention given the proximity to India, especially after the 2017 stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Doklam. Since the stand-off, China has stepped up its military presence in the disputed plateau.

The Jakarlung and Pasamlung valleys along Bhutan’s northern borders with Tibet measure 495 sq. km.

Beijing has recently launched an infrastructure push in Tibet to build what it calls “xiaokang” (moderately prosperous) frontier villages, to establish civilian settlements in areas, including disputed ones, along the Tibet-Bhutan border.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.