Till 2020, China claimed two northern pastures of Bhutan to belong to China’s territory. Since China captured Tibet, they have started unreasonably claiming territories of other nations. The very first talk between Bhutan and China began in 1984. There were various pacts and agreements signed regarding the guiding principles till the border disputes got settled in these two countries.
In these agreements, both parties agreed on certain key points which include no violence over the border by either of the parties involved in the agreement, peaceful talks and behavior by the patrolling parties over the border, etc. But as usual, no result came out of this.
China gave a shock to Bhutan when it started claiming the entire area of Sakteng wildlife sanctuary in Bhutan at a global environment facility council. They said that the area is very important part of their history.
Bhutan logged a demarche to the Chinese embassy in India over China’s claim. China in return proposed a package solution in which it offered the area of the disputed land that is around 500 km, but in return, demanded possession over the area of Dhoklam plateau.
The reason is pretty much obvious – it will directly clear the ways for deploying Chinese armed forces near the Dhoklam area which is a disputed region between India and China. Many times, aggression by the Chinese armed forces has been seen. If Bhutan gives the area near the Dhoklam region, the presence of the Chinese army will be stronger than ever.
History of Bhutan’s foreign policy
The kingdom of Bhutan and People’s Republic of China do not maintain any official diplomatic relations but the relations are historically tense. This is evident from the fact that there is no embassy of China in Bhutan. Indirect modes are always used for communications.
Bhutan has never established any kind of official relations with the world, especially with UN security council members. They do not usually engage with the rest of the world.
There have been ups and downs in India-China relations, or one can say, a drift has been created. China’s claim over Arunachal Pradesh or in the Dhoklam region has been very unreasonable and cannot be justified even with the facts available. China has already captured many peak points and has entered India’s border, claiming it to be their territory. Recent attempts of the Chinese army intruding on the Indian border clearly show how China has been following the policy of expanding the border by their threatening tactics.
Many videos have been released where Chinese soldiers are seen threatening the Indian soldiers, where the Indian army is stopping the Chinese army from entering the border. Videos of Indian soldiers being hurt and injured due to the never-ending tensions have also come to light. China every time blames and threatens India regarding the border issue through its media and press releases.
India-Bhutan share a very healthy, positive, and cooperative relationship. Bhutan has always made friendly efforts towards India which is quite evident from the fact that the King, Queen, and little prince of Bhutan visited India to make the relation between the two countries even stronger. Many pacts and assurances of cooperation were agreed upon by both countries.
Also to encourage tourism, Bhutan assured quick tourist visas for the neighboring countries including specifically India. On many occasions, Bhutan has invited the Indian military, even the royal guards of Bhutan are trained by Indian militaries. Soon, India is going to launch satellites for Bhutan and these are all out of the friendly behavior both the countries have for each other.
A very good example of the friendly relation was seen in 2017 when there was a standoff between Chinese and Indian soldiers in Dhoklam. The Indian soldiers were invited by Bhutan into their region, where they stood in front of the Chinese army in Bhutan’s territory. Hence, we can say that we share very pleasing and friendly relations with Bhutan.
China with other disputed countries
China can be described as one such naughty student in a class of fifty students who makes everything very complicated for everyone; if they decide to have something, they are going to have it either by hook or crook. As of now, China has directly or indirectly border disputes with 12 countries and their neighbor countries.
From Aksai Chin to the islands of the Philippines, China claims the entire area as part of its territory. It is very evident from the aggression China is showing in the South-China sea that China wants to establish its dominance in the Pacific Ocean. The Road–Belt Initiative which passes by the disputed land between Pakistan and India is another issue in which China is adding more fuel.
The human rights violations in Hong Kong are clear pieces of evidence of how China is obsessed with its policy of monarchy.
There have been many trilateral pacts and other alliances are being formed by different countries of the world to tackle China. One such alliance is AUKUS, that was recently formed by the US, Australia, and the UK.
Is it going to affect India?
The bond and trust which Bhutan and India share, considering that fact Bhutan is not at all in a position to lose this friendship with India, being a landlocked country. Bhutan also has trade relations with India. But we cannot neglect the aggression of China when it comes to claiming something. Whether this pact will affect India or not only time will tell. But for now, definitely, Bhutan is not going to make any negotiation, as it will mean losing its relations with India.
It is high time that the government of India starts to train itself for such a situation where India can negotiate well itself. Also, considering China’s unreasonable demands whenever any step regarding the settlement of border disputes occurs, India should make its foreign policies even stronger by encouraging and participating more with those countries who can help India to tackle China in every aspect, whether it’s at the time of war or economical crisis.
Edited by Anupama Roy