China and Bhutan have agreed to “continue to maintain peace and stability” on their border, but Chinese analysts claim that this new arrangement could “upset” India.
Beijing and Thimphu held their 10th round of expert-level meetings on boundary issues in China’s Kunming between April 6 and 9. The Chinese side was led by Hong Liang, Director-General of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs of the Foreign Ministry.
It was agreed to maintain cordial relations at the border. A roadmap for speeding up China-Bhutan border negotiations was also discussed, the Chinese foreign ministry said.
Taking a swipe at New Delhi, Chinese experts, however, said the meeting reflects Bhutan’s negation of India’s claim of “China threat” and managing the border affairs independently.
Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the state-owned Global Times that 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”.
New Delhi has not yet made any official comment on the China-Bhutan boundary talks.
India maintains close ties with the tiny Himalayan neighbor. Doklam, an area close to the India-Bhutan-China tri-junction, had witnessed a standoff between Indian and Chinese armies. The area is of strategic importance to all three nations.
Not far from #Doklam, the strategic #IndianAirForce base at #Hasimara has been undergoing large scale improvements since 2017, indicating #India's changing strategic goals to enhance its ability towards defending against any territorial encroachments in the sector pic.twitter.com/9Z1HTeDw7F
— d-atis☠️ (@detresfa_) February 2, 2021
India had objected to China constructing a road in Doklam, a territory claimed by both Beijing and Thimphu, leading to the confrontation. India, in fact, has sided with its ally Bhutan in the dispute.
China, which had been locked in a border conflict with India in eastern Ladakh for close to 10 months, officially admitted in July last year that it had a boundary dispute with Bhutan too. This caused alarm for New Delhi as the disputed territory falls in the eastern sector, near Bhutan’s border with India’s Arunachal Pradesh.
China claims the whole of Arunachal Pradesh as its territory, calling it Southern Tibet.
Amid the Ladakh border standoff last year, India reportedly pushed Bhutan to settle its boundary dispute with China to define the Doklam area, ThePrint reported.
While Bhutan has always acted as a loyal ally to India, Chinese experts believe the latest “friendly meeting” between Beijing and Thimphu will 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.”
The Chinese experts told the state media Beijing does not in fact bully its small neighbors like Bhutan. They said the consensus reached between China and Bhutan shows that a sincere China is willing to sit down and solve the decades-old historical issues.