Will Bhutan strike a friendship with China and participate in its OBOR Project? To ease out tensions between China and Bhutan, both nations discussed their border disputes during a two-day visit by the vice foreign minister of China. In the meeting, China also invited Bhutan to participate in its highly ambitious One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR), which Thimpu had rejected in support for India.
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India Bhutan Relations
The bilateral relations between Bhutan and India have been traditionally close and both countries share a special relationship with Bhutan being a protected state of India. India controls Bhutan’s foreign, defence and commerce policy. India’s budgetary aid to the Kingdom of Bhutan stood at US$985 million in 2015–16, making Bhutan the largest recipient of India’s foreign aid.
Bhutan which is traditionally an ally of India stood strongly by India’s side during the Doklam Standoff last year. While India and Bhutan enjoy rich diplomatic ties, there is no framework of diplomatic relations between China and Bhutan but periodic visits by officials keep the communication intact. This was the first time since the 2017 Doklam Standoff that a senior Chinese official visited Thimphu.
The Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister during his visit touched upon the need to push forward border negotiations, abide by the consensual principles and share the responsibility to maintain peace and stability in the border areas so as to instigate a mutual final settlement of the border disputes between the two Asian neighbours.
China also invited Bhutan to be a part of its One Belt One Road project which is China’s ambitious project to revive the traditional silk route so as to exploit markets in the Eurasian region. India’s Act East policy and China’s OBOR are both at loggerheads with each other as both India and China aspire to be the global superpowers.
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the key feature of China’s One Belt One Road project and China is wooing other Asian nations too so as to make them participate in its ambitions and is offering infrastructural development to developing economies under the OBOR.