CHINA / DIPLOMACY
China, Bhutan agree to maintain border peace and stability
Published: Apr 09, 2021 06:05 PM
The 10th China-Bhutan expert group meeting on boundary issues is held in Kunming, Southwest China's Yunnan Province, from Tuesday to Friday. Screenshot from official website of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The 10th China-Bhutan expert group meeting on boundary issues held in Kunming, Southwest China's Yunnan Province, from Tuesday to Friday. Screenshot from official website of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs



China and its Himalayan neighbor Bhutan agreed to continue to maintain peace and stability in the border areas before the final settlement of the China-Bhutan boundary issues, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Friday. 

Chinese experts said that the meeting shows Bhutan's willingness to manage border affairs independently, rebutting India's claims of "China threat," and reducing the risk on its eastern China-India border.  

The agreement was reached during the 10th China-Bhutan expert group meeting on boundary issues in Kunming, Southwest China's Yunnan Province, from Tuesday to Friday. Director-General of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs of the Foreign Ministry Hong Liang led the Chinese group. 

Proceeding from the close, friendly and cooperative relations between China and Bhutan, the expert group meeting held in-depth and fruitful discussions on the boundary issue in a warm and friendly atmosphere, the ministry said. The meeting also discussed a roadmap for speeding up China-Bhutan border negotiations.

The two countries agreed to hold the 25th round of China-Bhutan boundary talks and the 11th meeting of the expert group on the boundary issue at an early date at each other's convenience, according to the ministry. 

Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Friday that the four-day meeting has further promoted the friendly relations. Despite the two countries not having diplomatic ties, mutual trust between the two countries will be enhanced.

Since the launch of the China-Bhutan boundary negotiations in 1984, the two countries have signed both the guiding principles on the settlement of the boundary issues in 1988 and the agreement on maintaining peace and stability in the China-Bhutan border area in 1998. These two agreements form the basis of the boundary negotiations between China and Bhutan, the ministry said. 

The territorial disputes between China and Bhutan are not huge, but have not been resolved. Analysts said that it is India that stands in the way as the country has a special cultural influence on Bhutan historically, and an impact on Bhutan in defense and diplomacy.

The friendly talks between Bhutan and China, including the consensus reached on the roadmap for border negotiations, reflect Bhutan's desire to run its own affairs, Qian said. 

India, which has a months-long border dispute with China since May 2020, has yet to take a position on the China-Bhutan talks. Qian said Bhutan's move will upset some Indians who think Bhutan is under India's control and it will be seen as a signal of breaking away.

The consensus reached between China and Bhutan shows that a sincere China is willing to sit down and solve the decades-old historical issues, observers said.

From Qian's point of view, the talks and agreement refute the slander made by anti-China Indians that "China is holding back its troops on the China-India border in order to take military action to 'retake' its territory after it becomes stronger in the future." And some Indians use this as an excuse to create an aggressive image of China, seeking for provocation, Qian added. 

 "The meeting shows that in the face of a small-sized country like Bhutan, China does not bully," Qian said. 

In November 2020, some Indian media tried to drive a wedge between China and Bhutan, claiming that China has constructed a "village" in Bhutan, 9 kilometers from the spot of the Doklam standoff.

Progress and resolution of the China-Bhutan border issue will also further remove the potential for conflict along the eastern border between China and India, Qian said.

The 2017 Doklam standoff refers to the conflict between Chinese and Indian soldiers near the border area of China-India-Bhutan. Indian troops accused China of crossing the border to Bhutan while Chinese soldiers were constructing a road within its territory in Doklam. 


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