Beijing, July 25: Although it seemed to be just another visit by a diplomatic envoy, but Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuangyou's three-day tour of Bhutan which concluded on Tuesday, July 24, had more undercurrents attached to it than visible with naked eyes.
The implication of the visit was seen seriously with both China and India with one Chinese expert even saying that Beijing's efforts to help countries like Bhutan were hindered by India which itself has no capacity to help in their development, China's Global Times reported.
Kong on Tuesday, July 24, said Beijing respects Bhutan's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity after the conclusion of visit to the landlocked Himalayan nation.
Kong met Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk, its prime minister Tshering Tobgay and foreign minister Damcho Dorji during the visit, China's foreign ministry said.
Kong said China treated its traditional ties with Beijing with great importance and also respected its choice of political system and development road suiting its own conditions and respected Bhutan's independent and peaceful diplomatic stances, the Times report said.
In 2017, China and India locked horns over Doklam, which is only 40 kilometres away from Bhutan, over Beijing's decision to build infrastructure. China was of the opinion that India had nothing to do with it as it was a matter to be taken up with Bhutan while India perceived a Chinese threat near its border and came forward to defend its trusted ally in South Asia, Bhutan.
The stand-off went on for 73 days. China said it discussed the Doklam issue with Bhutan during Kong's visit to that country.
The visit by Kong was seen with caution by the Indian side as its media thought it was timed ahead of Bhutan's national election late this year to boost China's influence there, the Global Times report added.
The Times, however, cited Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, as saying that China respected another country's sovereignty irrespective of the size and accused India of treating Bhutan as its "orbit" and said Thimpu could not completely get rid of India's influence on matters of politics, economy, diplomacy and security.
Hu also said that China hoped to see Bhutan turning more independent "in these respects" like Nepal, another Himayalan kingdom which has in recent times shown intent to go out of India's shadow and cement its relationship with China.
It was also Hu who said that China's eagerness to help countries like Bhutan is "strenuously opposed" by India even though it is not capable itself to do the same.
China, on the occasion of Kong's visit, also invited Bhutan to join its Belt and Road Initiative, something it hasn't done as one of those rare South Asian countries along with India.
China and Bhutan don't have formal diplomatic relations but have engaged over several rounds of talks to resolve their border dispute.