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Bhutan’s king visiting India amid concern about Doklam letdown

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(TibetanReview.net, Apr02’23) – Bhutan’s king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is to visit India or three days from Apr 3 on an invitation from President Draupadi Murmu. He will hold talks with various Indian leaders to expand bilateral relations between the two countries, reported newsdayexpress.com Apr 2.

The visit comes amid concerns expressed in the Indian media on recent remarks by Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lotay Tshering that China was an equal partner for discussing the Doklam border issue with India and itself. He has also denied reports that China had built villages in Bhutanese territory.

In an interview with the Belgian newspaper La Libra in Brussel, Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering has said Bhutan hopes to complete the demarcation of territories with China within “one or two meetings”, saying the problem was not a big one.

His remarks raised questions about whether Bhutan agreed to a settlement of the disputed Bhutanese territory to the north while ceding parts of the Doklam plateau. In such a case, it will pose a very difficult situation for India, said the financialexpress.com Mar 29.

Bhutan and China have disputes in Jakarlung and Pasamlung Valleys on the northern boundary of Bhutan. Doklam which lies on the western front is around 270 square km while the northern boundary dispute areas measure nearly 500 square km, the report noted.

Doklam was a site of major stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops which continued for 73 days in 2017 after China tried to build a road in the disputed trijunction.

The tri-junction point, as reflected in international maps, lies at a place called Batang La. Chinese-occupied Tibet’s Chumbi Valley lies to the north of Batang La, Bhutan to the south and east and the Indian state of Sikkim to the west, the report noted.

The area of Doklam is of great strategic significance to India, China, and Bhutan. China has been aggressive for Doklam as it could control Chumbi Valley and transport war machinery to the border with India, giving them an upper hand over the Siliguri Corridor.

The report said China wanted the tri-junction to be moved around seven kilometres south of Batang La to a peak named Mount Gipmochi, so that the entire Doklam plateau would legally become a part of China.

It noted that in 2012, China agreed to maintain the status quo at border tri-junctions such as Doklam where all three nations are involved.

“It is not up to Bhutan alone to solve the problem (Doklam issue). We are three countries. None is big or small, all three are equal countries,” Lotay Tshering had said in the interview.

China insists, however, that Doklam belongs neither to India nor Bhutan, but only to itself.

On reports, citing satellite images, saying China had built villages in Bhutanese territory, Lotay Tshering has said, “We have clearly stated that there is no intrusion. This is an international border and we know exactly what is ours.”

The Prime Minister has further said, “the problem on our border with China is not a big one. However, some areas have not yet been demarcated. He had said that after one or two more meetings, we would probably be able to draw a dividing line.”

Discussions during the king’s three-day visit will focus on expanding bilateral relations between the two countries, especially economic and development cooperation, said the newsdayexpress.com report.

It cited India’s Ministry of External Affairs as saying India and Bhutan share close friendship and cooperation which is based on understanding and mutual trust.

The king will be accompanied by Tandy Dorji, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Bhutan and several senior ministers of the Royal Government of Bhutan, the report said.

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