From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Bhutan-China Border Agreement
In a step towards resolving their boundary disputes, Bhutan and China signed an agreement on a three-Step roadmap to help speed up talks to “break the deadlock” in negotiations.
Bhutan-China Border Issues
Bhutan shares an over 400-km-long border with China.
- Doklam: China wants to exchange the valleys to the north of Bhutan with the pasture land to the west (including Doklam), totalling 269 square kilometres.
- Jakarlung and Pasamlung valleys: located near Tibet to Bhutan’s North, which measure 495 sq. kms.
- Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary Project: China claims this area (near to Arunachal Pradesh) in eastern Bhutan as its own.
What is the recent agreement?
- The roadmap “for Expediting the Bhutan-China Boundary Negotiations”, is expected to progress on the boundary talks process that has been delayed for five years.
- It was stalled due to the Doklam standoff in 2017, and then by the Covid Pandemic.
- Although China and Bhutan do not have official diplomatic relations they have engaged in 24 rounds of ministerial-level talks to resolve their border dispute.
Implications for India
The boundary issue between China and Bhutan is special because it not only relates to Bhutan but also has become a negative factor for China-India ties.
- China control much of the Doklam: Since the 2017 stand-off with India, Beijing has already strengthened its de facto control over much of the Doklam plateau, located strategically along the India-China-Bhutan trijunction.
- Bhutan supports it: This agreement has been equally endorsed and appreciated by Bhutan and China.
- Deadlock at LAC talks: Its timing is particularly significant New, given India-China border talks on their 17-month-old standoff at the Line of Actual Control appear to have hit an deadlock.
- India’s strategic risks: This has big implications for India, since the Doklam swap would have given China access to the strategically sensitive “chicken neck” of the Siliguri corridor.
- The Doklam plateau remains hugely critical for India due to the Siliguri Corridor that lies to the south of Doklam.
- The corridor, also known as the ‘Chicken’s Neck’, is a 22-km wide major arterial road connecting mainland India with its northeastern states and thus it is a highly sensitive area for China.
(b) Sakteng: the hotspot
- The Sakteng sanctuary adjoins West Kameng district and Tawang disticts in India’s Arunachal Pradesh state.
- Its strategic value lies in its proximity to Arunachal Pradesh, where China claims around 90,000 sq km of Indian territory.
- Tawang, the major bone of contention between India and China in the eastern sector of their border dispute, lies to the northeast of the Sakteng.
- Bhutan has to balance its ties with India as well as China.
- We need to explore channels that India can activate with Bhutan when it comes to the highly sensitive matter of settling the boundary dispute between them and China.