Asia - Pacific

China, Bhutan sign MoU to speed up boundary talks

Both sides dispute 295 square miles of land in northern, western Bhutan, and have held 24 rounds of talks, 10 meetings since 1984

Riyaz ul Khaliq   | 15.10.2021
China, Bhutan sign MoU to speed up boundary talks Photo source: Offical Facebook page of Royal Government of Bhutan Foreign Ministry


China and Bhutan have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on a “Three-Step Roadmap” to speed up boundary disputes resolution negotiations.

“The MoU will provide a fresh impetus to the boundary talks. It is expected that the implementation of this roadmap in a spirit of goodwill, understanding, and accommodation will bring the boundary negotiations to a successful conclusion that is acceptable to both sides,” Bhutan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement after the two countries signed a virtual Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Thursday evening.

Chinese daily Global Times reported that the MoU also aimed to “promote the process of establishing diplomatic ties between the two countries.”

China and Bhutan share 248 miles (about 400 kilometers) long border, but do not have diplomatic or economic relations. However, the two nations maintain contact through bilateral visits by their officials.

The two countries are in dispute over around 295 square miles (about 764 square kilometers) of territory in northern and western Bhutan that comprise of Doklam, Sinchulung, Dramana, and Shakhatoe areas.

Wu Jianghao, China’s assistant minister of foreign affairs, signed the MoU with Lyonpo TandiDorji, Bhutan’s foreign minister to expedite the “Bhutan-China Boundary Negotiations.”

“China and Bhutan are friendly neighbors linked by mountains and rivers. The traditional friendship between the two peoples goes back to ancient times,” said Wu.

Dorji said: “Bhutan will work with China to implement the MoU, unswervingly push forward the negotiation on demarcation, and be committed to strengthening bilateral relations.”

China has settled border disputes with at least 12 of its neighbors so far. Border demarcation with India and Bhutan, on the other hand, has yet to be finalized.

India and China have been locked in a military standoff since last year when 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese soldiers were killed in a confrontation in the Ladakh area of disputed Jammu and Kashmir.

According to the Bhutanese Foreign Ministry, the boundary negotiations began in 1984 and the two sides have held 24 rounds of talks on the issue and 10 rounds of meeting at the expert group level.

It was during the 10th expert group meeting in Kunming city of China early this year in April that the two sides agreed on the Three-Step Roadmap that will “build on the 1988 Guiding Principles and help to expedite the ongoing boundary negotiations.”

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