Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck on Tuesday (April 4) covering a range of issues involving bilateral ties, including the nations’ respective national interests.
The King began his two-day visit to India on Monday amid concerns in New Delhi over China’s attempts to expand influence over Thimphu.
Certain remarks by Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering on the Doklam tri-junction were seen by many as the Himalayan nation cosying up to Beijing though Bhutan maintained that there has been no change in its stance on the border dispute.
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Roadmap to expand cooperation
When asked whether the Doklam issue figured in Tuesday’s talks, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said India and Bhutan remain in close touch relating to security cooperation.
At a media briefing, Kwatra said the visit of the Bhutanese King to India provided an opportunity to sketch a roadmap to expand cooperation in diverse areas.
Bhutan is a strategically important country for India, and the defence and security ties between the two sides have witnessed significant expansion in the last few years.
The Doklam issue
The strategic ties have witnessed an upward trajectory in the past few years in the backdrop of a 73-day face-off between Indian and Chinese troops in the Doklam tri-junction in 2017. The Doklam plateau is considered an important area for India’s strategic interest.
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The standoff at Doklam tri-junction in 2017 began after China tried to extend a road in an area that Bhutan claimed belonged to it.
India had strongly opposed the construction, as it would have impacted its overall security interests. The India-China face-off was resolved following several rounds of talks.
In October 2021, Bhutan and China signed an agreement on a “three-step roadmap” to expedite negotiations to resolve their festering boundary dispute.
Bhutan shares an over 400-km border with China, and the two countries have held over 24 rounds of boundary talks in a bid to resolve the dispute.
In a recent interview, the Bhutanese prime minister had said that China has an equal say in resolving the border dispute in Doklam.
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India has consistently been Bhutan’s top trading partner and remains the leading source of investments in Bhutan.
(With agency inputs)