India’s neighbour Bhutan and arch-rival China inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on a ‘Three-Step Roadmap’ to hasten the negotiations over the boundary disputes resolution.
“The MoU will provide a fresh impetus to the boundary talks. It is expected that the implementation of this roadmap in a spirit of goodwill, understanding, and accommodation will bring the boundary negotiations to a successful conclusion that is acceptable to both sides,” said a Bhutan’s Foreign Ministry statement after the two countries signed a virtual Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Thursday.
The Chinese mouthpiece Global Times claimed that the MoU also aimed to “promote the process of establishing diplomatic ties between the two countries.”
China and Bhutan share a 248 miles (about 400 kilometres) long border and cross border trade but do not have diplomatic or official economic relations. Both nations maintain contacts through bilateral visits by their officials.
The two countries dispute around 295 square miles (about 764 square kilometres) of territory in northern and western Bhutan that comprise Doklam, Sinchulung, Dramana, and Shakhatoe areas.
Wu Jianghao, China’s assistant minister of foreign affairs, signed the MoU with Lyonpo Tandin Dorji, Bhutan’s foreign minister, to expedite the “Bhutan-China Boundary Negotiations.”
“China and Bhutan are friendly neighbours linked by mountains and rivers. The traditional friendship between the two peoples goes back to ancient times,” said Wu.
Dorji said, “Bhutan will work with China to implement the MoU, unswervingly push forward the negotiation on demarcation, and be committed to strengthening bilateral relations.”
China has so far settled its border disputes with at least 12 of its neighbours. Border boundary with India and Bhutan, on the other hand, has yet to be finalized.
Since 2020, China has taken over some of the Indian territories and are now locked in a military standoff. India lost 20 soldiers and the Chinese claim to have lost just four, in a confrontation in the Ladakh area of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Chinese and Bhutanese began negotiating the boundary in 1984. So far the two sides have held 24 rounds of talks and ten rounds of meeting at the expert group level.
In April, during the 10th expert group meeting in Kunming city of China, both sides agreed on the Three-Step Roadmap to “build on the 1988 Guiding Principles and help expedite the ongoing boundary negotiations.”