(TibetanReview.net, Nov03’23) – Following reports, most recently on Oct 23, that his country and China had reached an understanding for a speedy settlement of their Tibet-border disputes, King Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan has reached India today for an eight-day visit. The media in India have expressed concern that the border settlement may involve Bhutan making a territorial concession to China at the Doklam tri-junction with India and occupied-Tibet which would pose a serious security threat to New Delhi.
India and Bhutan enjoy unique ties of friendship and cooperation, which are characterised by understanding and mutual trust, timesofindia.com Nov 3 cited New Delhi as saying in a statement.
The visit by the King, who will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his stay in Delhi, is being seen as a “reassuring” gesture by Bhutan to India amid concerns here about Thimphu’s apparent efforts to open up to China, as obvious from the visit to Beijing by a Bhutan foreign minister last month, the report said.
“The visit will provide an opportunity to both the sides to review the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation and to further advance the exemplary bilateral partnership, across diverse sectors,” the statement was further quoted as saying.
Bhutan is said to have assured India that it will be mindful of New Delhi’s interests in case of any border agreement with China, the report said.
It bears recalling that Bhutan has already said no settlement on Doklam could be made with China without the involvement and approval of India as it is an interested party on this dispute.
China has long been seeking territorial concession at Doklam in exchange for conceding its territorial claims in northern Bhutan while also seeking the establishment of formal diplomatic relationship with the Himalayan kingdom.
King Wangchuck’s visit comes close on the heels of a rare visit to China last month by Bhutanese foreign minister Tandi Dorji, during which the two countries held the 25th round of their boundary talks after a gap of seven years and expressed interest in demarcating the boundary soon.
The report noted that Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lotay Tshering had on more than one occasion in the recent past said his country was close to resolving its border dispute with China.
The Indian government expects Bhutan to not do anything, in reaching a border agreement with China, that could imperil India’s security, particularly on the Doklam tri-junction issue that’s critical to India’s security.
The report also said Tshering had already said earlier that all three countries will have a say in resolving the Doklam issue.
India, however, wants China also to acknowledge an understanding reached in 2012 that tri-junction boundary points between India, China (occupied Tibet) and third countries will be finalised in consultation with the concerned countries, the report noted.
During Dorji’s visit to China, foreign minister Wang Yi had told him that the conclusion of boundary negotiations and the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Bhutan will serve the long-term and fundamental interests of the two countries, the report said.
Dorji was quoted saying, in his turn, that the two countries had enjoyed a traditional friendship and that Bhutan appreciated and supported global initiatives proposed by President Xi Jinping, which “have delivered benefits to all parties, especially its neighbours, including Bhutan”.
Bhutan is currently the only country in India’s neighbourhood that has not joined China’s BRI.