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 !