India watchful as China, Bhutan ink border talks MoU

Wednesday 20th October 2021 07:44 EDT

China signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Bhutan for a “three-step roadmap” to expedite boundary negotiations that have been on for nearly the past four decades. India, which closely follows all such engagements between the two countries as Chinese claims over disputed territories have serious security implications for New Delhi, reacted cautiously.

“We have noted the signing of the MoU between Bhutan and China. You are aware that Bhutan and China have been holding boundary negotiations since 1984. Similarly, India has been holding boundary negotiations with China,” said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, when asked whether Bhutan had kept India informed about the MoU.

Thimpu said the roadmap will provide fresh impetus to the boundary talks and that it expects its implementation “in a spirit of goodwill, understanding and accommodation” will bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion that is acceptable to both sides. Bhutan is the only country apart from India to have a land boundary dispute with China.

While 24 rounds of talks have been held since 1984, the last negotiations took place in 2016.

Bhutan has so far not accepted the Chinese 1996 ‘package deal’ that had offered to exchange territory in central Bhutan for Doklam, located dangerously close to India’s Siliguri Corridor.

The text of the MoU, which was signed during a virtual ceremony, has not yet been made public. In an announcement, Bhutan said during the 10th expert group meeting with China in April this year, the sides had agreed on the roadmap that will apparently build on the 1988 Guiding Principles for the settlement of the boundary and expedite negotiations. It had been reported at the time that a ‘three-step roadmap’ was discussed.

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