Sunday, November 2, 2014

Would India disrupt Bhutan China Border Negotiation?

The Indian Newspaper The Telegraph carried a front page article on the forth coming  visit of the Indian President to Bhutan in its issue of 28th October,2014. It says that the visit is about Indian anxiety on the progress of China Bhutan Border Talks. President Pranab Mukerjee arrives on7th and leaves on 8th November.2014. Would he demand Bhutan to obstruct border negotiations with China?

India had been controlling the Sino Bhutan international boundary Talks through its iron grip on Bhutan's economic and communication dependence on India. The writer Charu Sudan Kasturi cites the case of India withdrawing subsidies in 2013 to warn Bhutan against normalising relation with China.

The China Bhutan Border Talks have been going on for decades. China has been quite sincere and mostly positive in conducting the international boundary negotiation with Bhutan. And Bhutan on the other hand has been trying to delay the progress for many years at the insistence of India. How long can Bhutan defy the patience of China and to what national benefit? The next step after signing international boundary agreement with China would be normalising relationship between the two Countries.

And that is what India wants to stall or prevent. A diplomatic level relationship with China would forever consolidate the sovereign status of Bhutan. Bhutan would no longer be easily available to act as political pawn or  surrogate for India in  sensitive international politics. That is a fact. However, Bhutan's corner stone foreign policy of friendship with India will not alter. India will remain Bhutan's most desired benefactor. Geographical access, language and social behaviour naturally bring Bhutan closer to India. So India will be more dominant than China in Bhutan's priority. At the other end of the scale it would be suicidal to keep snubbing friendly overtures from China.

Unfortunately India and many other Western Nations and their Allies in South East Asia including Australia and Japan do not want China to develop progressive relationship with Bhutan. On the other hand these same Countries have gone all out to develop their own political and economic ties with China. So they are not containing the influence of China in international affairs but they are curtailing the progress of Bhutan. It is necessary that Bhutanese Leaders counter the isolation of Bhutan from China by vested interests of India and other pro Western groups of nations. Bhutan cannot be " A Tool of Irritant ' for anti- China forces.

The Telegraph article on the eve of the visit of President of India to Bhutan is a deliberate political attempt to misconstrue the facts about China Bhutan international boundary Talks. The article alleges that China is offering more land to Bhutan at certain point of Sino-Bhutan border in exchange for some adjustment at the Tri-junction border of India, Bhutan and China. This is a a desperate strategy on part of India to thwart Sino Bhutan progress in boundary Talks.

The actual fact is that India wants Bhutan to demand more land from China at the Tri-junction.  India is very well aware of the historical facts of British Raj days in India. As much as the Kings and the Kingdom of Bhutan want to comply with Indian dictate,historical facts cannot be changed by Bhutan. The British Raj grabbed the Duars from Bhutan and made the Duars part of India. The Tri-junction  is part of annexed Duar region and part of it was sold by British Raj to China Tibet after it was annexed from Bhutan.

Now how could Bhutan reclaim this portion of land from China when she cannot reclaim her Duar regions from India? The Tri-junction is a strategic point and neither India nor China would surrender even a square inch of their land to each other or to Bhutan . If Bhutan continues to postpone the finalization of international boundary with China,the King of Bhutan has to be aware that the Kingdom will not get the relaxation that China had so far accorded on the disputed Sino Bhutan border.  And history will reflect badly on the legacy of the so far much admired Wangchuck dynasty for testing, at the behest of India, the extreme limit the benign policy of China towards Bhutan.

President Pranab Mukerjee is an accomplished leader of India. No one can cast doubts on his nationalistic insight and foresight especially on China and India border dispute. He and another notable Political  Leader of India  late hon'ble Shri Basu of Communist Party could have been the Prime Ministers of India but for the obstructions from their own respective Parties.  So he is of the highest political calibre to understand that even without coming to Bhutan that Bhutan is in no position to take Chinese land to enhance the strategic interest of India.

President Pranab Mukerjee was the then the  Minister of External  Affairs of India when the 4th King of Bhutan pleaded with India in 2006 for renegotiation of 1949 Indo Bhutan Treaty. What concession did he consider for Bhutan? Why was the clause regarding the Duars annuity payable by India to Bhutan removed from the renegotiated Treaty? The Kingdom of Bhutan was obliged to forgo its past losses in the bargain to regain authority over its present and future Sovereign Affairs. But in realty Bhutan lost out on the Duars annuity and India still insist on directing Bhutan's external affairs. India even took the unprecedented step to intervene in the General Election of Bhutan in 2013 as recorded in the Telegraph article.

When will India and Bhutan respect the spirit and the letter of the re-negotiated Indo Bhutan Treaty that was in fact signed by the present President of India and the present King of Bhutan in 2006.

Their Majesties the 5th King and the 4th King have all the respects and obedience of the Bhutanese people but how does India expect the Kings to overlook the security interest of their own Kingdom and people and continue delaying the settlement of China Bhutan international boundary.

India is an old and dear development benefactor of Bhutan. No Bhutanese can discount this fact. However can any Bhutanese put his head in the mouth of the lion in the north at the roar of the tiger from the south? My own answer is no even if the tiger does pose danger to my assumed secure position. Actually without real sovereignty there cannot be secure position for anyone in Bhutan; only a deluded sense of hanging on borrowed time and position.

The international Sino Bhutan boundary is being demarcated by two technical survey teams of Bhutan and China. The Indo Bhutan international boundary in the west and south of Bhutan was demarcated by the Survey General of India.

Bhutan and India are yet to resolve the international boundary in the East of Bhutan primarily because the Survey General of India could not arbitrarily demarcate the boundary of Arunachal State which is also claimed  by China.  According to Chinese map of Bhutan, substantial land area of Bhutan is presently occupied by the  State of Arunachal. Would India be prepared to give back Bhutanese land?

The paradox is that there are three maps of the Kingdom of Bhutan. One is Indian version,the other is Chinese version and one that Bhutan adopted several years back at the later stage of the reign of the 4th King. The ideal solution would be for China to give to Bhutan whatever the Indian map shows as being Bhutanese land along the Sino Bhutan boundary. And India should also give to Bhutan whatever land the Chinese map shows as Bhutanese land along the Indo Bhutan boundary. As a gesture of goodwill to Bhutan's two neighbours, the King of Bhutan could advise the Bhutanese Parliament to sanction joint patrolling with China along Sino Bhutan international boundary and joint patrolling with India along Indo Bhutan international boundary. That way both China and India would not be aggrieved for accepting both the version of Bhutanese international boundary maps prepared by their own national Survey Agencies.

I invite the three nations to consider the ideal solution. Both China and India could return the whole of ancient Bhutanese land to Bhutan. And participate with Bhutan to patrol the respective border regions. That way the land China returns to Bhutan cannot be used by India and the land India returns to Bhutan cannot be used by China. A real politics of status quo put in actual real life practise could provide for peace of mind of all three neighbours.

I urge Bhutan to finalize the Sino Bhutan international boundary. The issue has been  straggling over three reigns of Wangchuck dynasty since 1970. Also as successive leaderships of Bhutan have reiterated, the friendship with India must remain the corner stone foreign policy of Bhutan.  However, China has the vast potentiality to also assist Bhutan to economic prosperity and economic development must be the central goal of a least developing nation like Bhutan. Right now Bhutan is the only SAARC Country and maybe the only UN Member which does not pursue an  internationally respectable status relationship with its immediate northern neighbour China.

India under Shri Modi leadership has gone  all out to woo Chinese investment in India. Prime Minister Modi of India accorded a huge welcome to the President of China even whilst Chinese and Indian troops stood at close hostile encounter positions on the line of disputed Himalayan border.  This is one lesson that Bhutanese leadership could put in practise in Bhutan's relation with China. After all , is not the new Indo Bhutan Big Brother Theme : Bharat for Bhutan and Bhutan  copycat Bharat?

Pelden Drukpa !  Stay Vigilant !


  1. I have always been intrigued by the border problems with the north and gone through number of articles published in Eurasia views. Your post, is very much informative as always and I have enjoyed reading through. You have the beautiful insight over the solution, It would be very good for Bhutan if the two neighbors accord it to our whims.

    One thing I'd like further clarification is the exchange of land proposed by China, or was it really Bhutanese part of the delegation that bargained for more land in the Chicken Neck Area? The previous articles I have read all claimed that China wanted the 360 sq. Km disputed land in Haa, Doklam in exchange for the 400 sq. Km disputed area in Pasamlung, Lhuntse. This was clearly not in interest of India because if Bhutan turns this area over to the China, the chances are China may establish army camp in the Chicken neck Area which is strategic because if Chinese army are in the tri junction Chicken neck area; it also mean that Chinese army can cut of the Sikkim, and other northern states of India possibly Jammu and Kashmir inclusive.

    One thing is clear, nothing comes out of the border talks. Was is supposedly done Bhutanese counterparts who didn't wish to give away what India didn't want to be given. Or does India see the threat to all it's northern states and Bhutan itself, if Bhutan gives away the tri area in Doklam? Please clarify more.

    Thank you

  2. I do not think that there was ever any thought on part of Bhutan to give away what is her land at the Tri-Junction. On the other hand it is India asking Bhutan to demand Chinese land at Doklam.
    In the north in Haa and Bumthang China had consented to accede to Bhutanese requests and for geographical factor,the two sides had agreed to adjust the sizes of area in northern Haa and Bumthang without altering the total land area claimed by Bhutan. This was a national News several years back and put to the highest Legislative Body. And this arrangement has no relation to the position at Doklam. At Doklam India is using Bhutan to irritate China since India also borders China there and the two Countries are yet to resolve their border issue. And any possible extension of Bhutanese territory there would automatically be to the advantage of Indian strategic position because India has strong presence in Bhitan and the Bhutanese Army is funded by India though thankfully our King is the Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces. It is unthinkable for Bhutan to compromise the interest of India and at the same time it is impossible for Bhutan to get even a square inch of Indian or Chinese land at the Tri-Junction area. And Bhutan cannot give her land or agree to any kind of adjustment with China or even with India because we stand in imminent threat from both the giant Nations since it is extremely sensitive area. To India the chicken neck spells danger for its north eastern frontier States and to China this chicken neck poses the danger of Indian Army taking over Southern Bhutan and therefore halving the Buffer State Bhutan with whom she does not as yet have any diplomatic or commerce relations.

  3. Contrary to popular belief, China has a very good record in border settling. China has fourteen contiguous land borders and has settled amicably twelve of them with the exception of India and Bhutan. As is explained by this article, India has an overwhelming influence in Bhutan's foreign policy and India does not want Bhutan and China to have its border settled. This comprehensive study in China's border settlements conducted by a political scientist in MIT is very informative.

    India on the other hand has border disputes with every single of its neighbors. Some of it extremely contentious and bitter. The following is a list of India's foreign adventures vis-à-vis its neighbors.

    1947 Annexation of Kashmir

    1949 Annexation of Manipur

    1949 Annexation of Tripura

    1951 Annexation of South Tibet:

    1961 Annexation of Goa:

    1962 Annexation of Kalapani, Nepal:

    1962 Aggression against China:

    1971 Annexation of Turtuk, Pakistan:

    1972 Annexation of Tin Bigha, Bangladesh

    1975 Annexation of Sikkim:

    1990 (Failed) Attempted annexation of Bhutan:

    1. 1983 When India (Almost) Invaded Mauritius

  4. Dear Wangcha Sangey,

    A good article.

    It is unfair on the part of India to play this game of brinkmanship. There is no power on this earth that can prevent China from taking over what is rightfully theirs. If they have been patient so far, it is because they understand that Bhutan is under pressure from India. Unfortunately India has always failed to see the forest being desecrated while their attention remained drawn to the lone tree that they believe is being imperiled. It is this inability to see and gauge the bigger picture that has caused India to lose respect and sympathy among all of its neighbors except Bhutan.

    Something important Bhutan must keep in mind: on the standoff on the border issue, China understands that Bhutan is under compulsion from India. But will the mighty Dragon understand, and be patient, if they suspect that Bhutan is collaborating with India in something that is seen to be antagonistic against its interests? Bhutan must desist in such activities at all costs. Let us not give China the excuse they need.

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  6. well so many arrogant comments.One gentleman gave us the whole list of the links that good prove india as aggressor.i believe they are the part of chinese pseudo intellectual brigade formed to give impetus to its propaganda. I wonder how the author and the one who commented dis not mention china's annexation of tibet? the author himeslf called china tibet? now i also know about indias stance towards tibet as they have already accepted it as a part of china but that does not change the truth about tibet. and to those who think that nothing on earth can stop china from taking what they want to take...well we have seen such arrogance before with japan germany and later russia america and now china. the chinese should never forget the location of the great chinese wall and should think it as their natural boundary.