NEW DELHI: Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck will on Friday begin an eight-day official visit to India amid renewed efforts by Bhutan and China to resolve their boundary dispute and Beijing’s push for diplomatic ties with Thimphu.
India and Bhutan enjoy unique ties of friendship and cooperation, which are characterised by understanding and mutual trust, said the government in a statement.The visit by the King, who will meet PM Modi during his stay in Delhi, is being seen as a “reassuring” gesture by Bhutan to India amid concerns here about Thimphu’s apparent efforts to open up to China, as obvious from the visit to Beijing by a Bhutan foreign minister last month.
“The visit will provide an opportunity to both the sides to review the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation and to further advance the exemplary bilateral partnership, across diverse sectors,” added the government. Bhutan is said to have assured India that it will be mindful of New Delhi’s interests in case of any border agreement with China.
Wangchuck’s visit comes close on the heels of a rare visit to China last month by Bhutanese foreign minister Tandi Dorji, during which both countries held the 25th round of their boundary talks after a gap of seven years and expressed interest in demarcating the boundary soon.
Bhutan PM Lotay Tshering has on more than one occasion in the recent past said that Bhutan is close to resolving its border dispute with China. The Indian government expects Bhutan to not do anything, in reaching a border agreement with China, that could imperil India’s security, particularly on the Doklam tri-junction issue that’s critical to India’s security. Tshering had said earlier that all three countries will have a say in resolving the Doklam issue. India, however, wants China also to acknowledge an understanding reached in 2012 that tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalised in consultation with the concerned countries.
Bhutan is the only country in India’s neighbourhood that has not officially joined China’s BRI. China, however, is hoping to have normal diplomatic ties with Bhutan once the border issue is resolved. During Dorji’s visit to China, foreign minister Wang Yi had told him that the conclusion of boundary negotiations and the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Bhutan will serve the long-term and fundamental interests of the two countries.
Dorji was quoted saying that the two countries had enjoyed a traditional friendship and that Bhutan appreciated and supported global initiatives proposed by President Xi Jinping, which “have delivered benefits to all parties, especially its neighbours, including Bhutan”. Wang apparently told Dorji that China respects the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries and the legitimate aspirations and concerns of small and medium-sized countries.

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