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Bhutan issues a demarche, China yet to respond

Bhutan is yet to receive a response from China after it issued a demarche following the Chinese Army constructing a motor road inside Bhutanese territory.

Speaking to Business Bhutan, the minister for foreign affairs, Damcho Dorji, said the government did not receive any response from the Chinese government and as of now there is no new development.

“If there is any new development, the ministry will issue a press release again,” said Lyonpo Damcho Dorji.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on 16th June the Chinese Army started constructing a road inside Bhutanese territory from Dokola in the Doklam area towards the Bhutan Army camp at Zompelri.

“Bhutan has conveyed to the Chinese side, both on the ground and through the diplomatic channel, that the construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory is a direct violation of the agreements and affects the process of demarcating the boundary between our two countries,” states a press release from the foreign ministry.

The release also states that the boundary talks are ongoing between Bhutan and China and have written agreements of 1988 and 1998 stating that the two sides agree to maintain peace and tranquility in their border areas pending a final settlement on the boundary question, and to maintain status quo on the boundary as before March 1959.

The agreements also state that the two sides will refrain from taking unilateral action, or use of force, to change the status quo of the boundary.

The Indian media earlier quoted Bhutan’s Ambassador to India, Major General Vetsop Namgyel, that Bhutan had issued the demarche.

The Indian Express quoted the ambassador saying that Doklam is a disputed territory and Bhutan has a written agreement with china that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, peace and tranquility should be maintained in the area.  “We have asked China to stop the road construction,” the Ambassador said.

The recent developments have further dented the already volatile relationship between India and China. China has alleged that Indian troops crossed the boundary line in the Sikkim sector of the China-India boundary and entered Chinese territory.

The Indian government maintained a long silence on the issue and chose to break the silence only yesterday evening, “It is our understanding that a Royal Bhutan Army patrol attempted to dissuade them from this unilateral activity. The ambassador of the Royal Government of Bhutan has publicly stated that it lodged a protest with the Chinese Government through their Embassy in New Delhi on 20 June,” says the statement.

The statement further goes on to say, “In coordination with the RGOB, Indian personnel, who were present at general area Doka la (known in Bhutan as Doklam), approached the Chinese construction party and urged them to desist from changing the status quo. These efforts continue.”

According to the Indian External Affairs ministry, in keeping with their tradition of maintaining close consultation on matters of mutual interest, Bhutan and India have been in continuous contact through the unfolding of these developments.

Bhutan and China has held 24 rounds of boundary talks since it began in 1984. 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. The disputed area in Pasamlung in the central north comprises of 496 sq. km while the disputed areas in the western section are Dramana, Charithang, Sinchulung, and Doklam, in the dzongkhags of Haa and Paro.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu

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