Indian FS visits Bhutan amid reports of Bhutan-China tension

Indian FS visits Bhutan amid reports of Bhutan-China tension

SAM Report,
Bhutan’s King Jigme Wangchuck granted an audience to Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, the Foreign Secretary of India on Tuesday. Photo: Bhutan Broadcasting Service

Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar met with Bhutan’s king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk on Tuesday (3 October) and scheduled to hold several meetings on Wednesday with officials in Thimphu, officials have confirmed.

Mr. Jaishankar’s visit came in the backdrop of reports that China is amassing troops near Bhutan’s Doklam plateau and other areas, barely a month after a standoff with India ended at the Doklam plateau.

Reports suggested that Chinese troops entered disputed zones of Bhutan-China border in a few places over the last week. During the Doklam crisis, Bhutan had maintained a cautious position indicating that it would allow diplomacy to take its course in the tricky border issue. During the visit, Mr Jaishankar is likely to hold talks with Foreign Minister Damcho Dorjee and Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay.

The visit is the first by the Indian Foreign Secretary following the resolution of the last round of tension between Indian and Chinese troops at Doklam where a 72-day standoff ended on August 28. Bilateral ties between India and China are not yet normal as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China did not invite representatives of the Indian army for the annual border personnel meeting (BPM) to mark the Chinese National Day on October 1.

China did not attend a similar meeting to mark the Independence Day celebrations on August 15 as it was overshadowed by the Doklam standoff.

A mechanism to discuss issues between China, Bhutan and India are also likely to be discussed during Mr. Jaishankar’s visit. Bhutan and China met for the 24th round of the bilateral border discussion in August 2016, but a similar meeting has not been held so far though Chinese diplomats based in Delhi have visited the kingdom on several occasions earlier this year.