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India's Diplomacy in Bhutan-China Relations Nuanced Approach



  Oct 28, 2023

India, Bhutan, and the Warming Ties with China


The recent diplomatic maneuvers by Bhutan's Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji in China are historic. These developments bear particular significance for India given its special relationship with Bhutan. Understanding the layered dynamics of this international triangle can help India safeguard its interests without alienating its long-standing ally, Bhutan.
 
Unprecedented Developments: The visit of Bhutan's Foreign Minister to China marks the first of its kind. Given that Bhutan and China have not maintained formal diplomatic relations, the move signifies a shift in Bhutan's foreign policy landscape.
 
Boundary Talks: After a hiatus of seven years, boundary talks have resumed between Bhutan and China. Both nations have signaled a mutual intent to delineate and demarcate their boundary, marking considerable progress.
 
India's Concerns: India has been cautious about Bhutan establishing diplomatic ties with China. India has strategic interests, notably the Siliguri Corridor, which it aims to protect.
 
Bhutan's Balancing Act: Bhutan is likely to have consulted India in its decision to engage with China, aiming to secure its interests without jeopardizing its special relationship with New Delhi. India's 'red lines,' particularly concerning Doklam, are expected to be respected.
 
Strategic Symbiosis: India needs to recognize that Bhutan, as a sovereign nation, will act in its best interests, which may include warming ties with China. Therefore, alignment rather than acquiescence should be India's strategy.
 
Mutual Understanding: A well-thought-out border agreement that addresses Bhutan's northern concerns while keeping India's strategic interests intact could serve both nations well. Trust in Bhutan's diplomatic acumen is essential.
 
In conclusion, India must approach the evolving Bhutan-China relationship with nuanced understanding rather than trepidation. Recognizing Bhutan's sovereign choices while aligning mutual interests can foster a more robust diplomatic framework.
 
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