China, Bhutan discuss boundary dispute
Beijing, July 24: Post-Doklam, China and Bhutan have discussed their boundary dispute and reached “many agreements” during the visit of a senior Chinese minister to the Himalayan kingdom, the Chinese foreign ministry said today.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou, accompanied by a high-level delegation, paid a two-day visit to Bhutan which ended today. Kong also invited Bhutan to take part in Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China and Bhutan do not have diplomatic relations but maintain contacts through periodic visits by officials. This is the first time a senior Chinese official visited Thimphu since last year’s 73-day-long Doklam military standoff with India.
Bhutan had objected to China building a road in the area claimed by it. India had also opposed the road which is too close to the strategic and narrow Chicken’s Neck corridor linking India’s northeast.
During the visit of Kong, “the two sides exchanged views on China-Bhutan ties, and also the boundary issue, and reached many agreements," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a media briefing here.
A press release issued by the Chinese foreign ministry on the visit of Kong said he had stated during his talks that the two sides should continue to push forward the border negotiations, abide by the principled consensus reached, jointly maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas, and create positive conditions for the final settlement of the border issue.
Significantly, China also sought to rope in Bhutan for the BRI of which the controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a flagship project. India had protested to Beijing as the CPEC traverses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). China welcomes Bhutan's active participation in the Belt and Road Initiative to share China's development dividends, said Kong.
He called on the King of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and also met Bhutanese Foreign Minister Damcho Dorji. For its part the Bhutanese side stated that it admired China's development achievements, welcomed the positive progress made by President Xi Jinping's "One Belt, One Road", the press release said. Besides appreciating China's contribution to promoting world peace, prosperity and development, Bhutan said it welcomed China to play a greater role in the international arena, the press release said. The Chinese delegation included the Chinese Ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui.
In his talks with the Bhutanese officials, Kong said China and Bhutan have maintained a sound momentum of development in recent years and made new progress in exchanges and cooperation in various fields. China attaches great importance to the traditional friendly relations with Bhutan and will as always respect Bhutan's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, respect its political system and development path chosen according to its own national conditions, and Bhutan's independent foreign policy of peace, the press release quoted him as saying.
China is willing to work with Bhutan to maintain high-level contacts, expand pragmatic cooperation, strengthen multilateral communication and coordination, and achieve common development on the basis of mutual respect and mutual benefit, Kong said.
Bhutan said although diplomatic relations between the two countries have not been established, the traditional friendship between the two is a good example for countries large and small to get along with each other, the Chinese press release said. Bhutan firmly adheres to the 'One-China’ policy concerning Taiwan and Tibet and is committed to deepening exchanges and cooperation with China and it is willing to maintain communication with China on bilateral relations and border issues, it said.
The two sides also exchanged views on international and regional issues of common concern, it said.