Bhutan King on India visit to bolster ties

Subhasish Mitra (Wide Angle)

Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck's current India visit will provide an opportunity to both sides to review the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation and to further advance the "exemplary" partnership.


But, that is for the record. More significantly, the tour comes at a time when there is a fresh push by Bhutan and China for an early settlement of their lingering boundary dispute.


New Delhi has been keeping a close eye on the negotiations between Bhutan and China on their boundary row as it could have implications for New Delhi's security interests, especially in the Doklam tri-junction.


The highlight of his eight-day trip will be meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. 


The 43-year-old King landed in Assam on a three-day visit before emplaning for Delhi. India and Bhutan share a 649-km-long border, of which a 267-km boundary is with Assam. He will also travel to Maharashtra.


According to the MEA, India and Bhutan enjoy unique ties of friendship and cooperation, which are characterized by understanding and mutual trust.


"The visit would 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," it said in a statement.


The Bhutan King's visit to India comes against the backdrop of new momentum in boundary talks between Bhutan and China.


Last week, Bhutan's Bhutan Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji held talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing.


A Chinese readout on the talks said Bhutan firmly abides by the one-China principle and stands ready to work with China for an early settlement of the boundary issue and advance the political process of establishing diplomatic relations.


In August, China and Bhutan agreed to expedite and take simultaneous steps to implement a "three-step roadmap" to resolve their festering boundary dispute.


In October 2021, Bhutan and China signed an agreement on the "three-step roadmap" to expedite negotiations to resolve their boundary dispute.


The signing of the pact came four years after the Indian and Chinese armies were locked in a 73-day stand-off at the Doklam tri-junction after China tried to extend a road in the area that Bhutan claimed belonged to it.


The India-China stand-off in the Doklam plateau in 2017 even triggered fears of larger conflict between the two neighbours. Bhutan had said the area belonged to it and India supported the Bhutanese claim.


Earlier, the Bhutanese king had visited India this April and met with President Droupadi Murmu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.


Briefing reporters after the April 5 meeting between PM Modi and the Bhutan King, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra had said the two countries are examining and considering setting up the first Integrated Check Post (ICP) along India-Bhutan border.


Responding to a volley of questions on remarks of Bhutan Prime Minister which were perceived to be at variance with Thimpu's earlier stance on the boundary issue vis-a-vis China, Kwatra said India and Bhutan remain in close touch, in close coordination relating to shared national interests, including security interest.


He said both countries maintain a longstanding tradition of very close consultations on matters relating to their mutual interest including security and "in this context the intertwined and indivisible nature of our security concerns is self-evident".



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