Tribune News Service
New Delhi, 14 October
India on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding between Bhutan and China on a “three-stage roadmap to accelerate Bhutan-China border talks”, which may also include discussions on Doklam.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said, “You are aware that Bhutan and China, like India, have been having border talks since 1984.”
Asked if Doklam is one of the borders being discussed and could be part of a solution package that would give China control over it, Bagchi said, “For the time being, I will limit myself to these comments. “
However, this announcement is not sudden. During the meeting of the expert group in Kunming in April this year, the two sides had agreed on a “three-stage roadmap” that would help expedite the ongoing border talks.
Sino-Bhutan border talks traditionally focused on two areas. One is the two valleys – Pasmalung and Jakarlung – and the other is Doklam, along the trijunction with India. But last year, during the Galwan Valley incident, China had opened a new front, objecting to Bhutan’s Sakteng Sanctuary, about which there was no dispute earlier.
Bhutan’s Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji and Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Wu Jianghao signed the MoU during a virtual signing ceremony. It will be exchanged between the two sides through diplomatic channels.
“The MoU on a three-stage roadmap will give a new impetus to the boundary talks. It is hoped that by implementing this roadmap in the spirit of goodwill, understanding and reconciliation, the border talks will reach a successful conclusion that is acceptable to both sides,” the Bhutan government said in a statement.
Boundary talks between Bhutan and China began in 1984 and the two sides held 24 rounds of border talks and ten rounds of expert group level meetings.
“The negotiations, conducted in the spirit of compromise and adjustment, have been guided by the 1988 Joint Communiqué on the Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the Border and the 1998 Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace, Peace and Status quo in the Bhutan-China Border Area,” Statement from Thimphu added.