…the report of the joint technical field survey helped in doing so

Assembly: Bhutan-China relations depends on how well the two countries settle the border dispute, according to the foreign minister, Damcho Dorji, who spoke on the issue during the National Council’s Question Hour session yesterday.

Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said that it is important to demarcate the border as soon as possible but the outcome is more important.

“A desired outcome would be one that benefits the country and the people. At the same time it is also important to strengthen Bhutan-China relations,” he said.

He was responding to the National Council’s Deputy Chairperson Tshering Dorji who pointed out that every time a border talk is held, it is reported that dialogues are progressing well. He then enquired about the outcomes, progress and as to when the talks would conclude.

The border talks started in 1984 and so far 24 rounds of talks have been held. When the talks persist for a very long time, there could possibly arise problems in the future, the Deputy Chairperson said.

To understand the dispute, a Joint Technical Field Survey was also conducted and the team had visited the field thrice. The report of the team was endorsed during the 22nd round of border talks.

This, Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said has been helpful in reducing the differences in claims between the two countries. The country’s basis for claims, Lyonpo said is on the age-old practise of land usage and administrative authority.

“For a small country like Bhutan, even an inch of land is precious,” Lyonpo said.

Citing the example of the border dispute between India and China that has been going on for decades, he said, to put the talks to an end sooner would be difficult.

“We cannot say that the problem is from their side or from our side. But our intention is to reduce the differences in claims as far as possible”

Lyonpo, however said that China has been very supportive in advancement of the talks.

Two areas, one in the central northern sector and four in the western sector have been the subject of talks as there are differences in claims in these areas.

The disputed area in Pasamlung in the central north comprises of 496 sq km. The disputed areas in the western section are Dramana, Charithang, Sinchulung, and Doklam, in the dzongkhags of Haa and Paro.

The Deputy Chair again expressed his concerns on loss of grazing land for people living in the border areas dependent on highland animals.

Lyonpo responded that whenever inconveniences are caused to the people because of  the border dispute, the Bhutanese embassy in New Delhi apprises the Chinese ambassador to India.

The Bhutan-China border talks are based on the guiding principles agreed to in 1998 by the two countries and the agreement on the maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the Bhutan-China areas.

Meanwhile, the foreign minister said that the demise of the Secretary of International Borders, Dasho Pema Wangchuk was a great loss to the country. Despite his old age, Lyonpo said that he personally went to the borders on numerous occasions.

The Deputy Chairperson also commended Late Dasho Pema Wangchuk for his valuable contribution to the border talks.

Tshering Dorji