Lhakpa Quendren

The government is optimistic about reaching a conclusion in the boundary negotiation with China at the earliest and establishing diplomatic relations, according to Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji.

Lyonpo said this during the final meet-the-press yesterday, following the recent conclusion of the 25th round of boundary negotiations between Bhutan and China in Beijing.

“We have made substantial progress with our border negotiations,” Lyonpo said. “There is a deep desire and commitment from both countries to resolve the border issue at the earliest and establish diplomatic relations.”

During the discussions, the two countries signed a cooperation agreement on the responsibilities and functions of the Joint Technical Team (JTT) responsible for the delimitation and demarcation of the Bhutan-China boundary.

The JTT was established during the 13th expert group meeting (EGM) to help the expert group in implementing the plans outlined in the memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the three-step roadmap.

“This is the immense and rapid progress that we have reached this time. I am very confident that in the next few rounds, there will be even more progress,” Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji said.

“We had hope that we would be able to resolve it at this stage, but now, both the expert group meetings and the joint technical team will start their work, and hopefully they will soon reach an agreement,” he added.

In the past 34 years, there were 24 rounds of border talks and seven expert group meetings, but according to Lyonpo, no progress was made in the negotiations as both countries maintained their own positions regarding the claimed border lines.

The government this time, Lyonpo said, held four EGMs in one year alone. “That shows the strong will and commitment from both countries to resolve border issues.”

The expert group meetings are people who know about the borders of the two international boundary secretaries. These meetings involve representatives from the foreign affairs and home affairs ministries.

In the past 34 years, Bhutan has signed only two agreements with China, the Guiding Principles Agreement on the Settlement of the Boundary in 1988, and the agreement on Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the border areas in 1998.

After the Covid-19 pandemic, the government signed two agreements—a three-step roadmap, which provides a clear plan for resolving border issues, and a cooperation agreement that outlines the roles and responsibilities of the JTT, which will inform and advise the expert group meetings.

Through these initiatives, both countries agreed to continue working together to simultaneously push forward the implementation of all the steps of the three-step roadmap.