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India’s foreign secretary discusses bilateral issues with Bhutan’s top leaders

LiveMint logoLiveMint 04-10-2017 Elizabeth Roche

New Delhi: Indian foreign secretary S. Jaishankar held talks with the top leadership of Bhutan this week—the first such interaction between the two countries since India and China ended a tense 73-day military standoff on Bhutan’s Dokalam plateau in August.

According to an Indian foreign ministry statement, Jaishankar, who landed in Bhutan on Sunday, called on the country’s current monarch Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck as well as his father, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, besides Prime Minister Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay and foreign minister Lyonpo Damcho Dorji.

“Foreign Secretary held discussions on the complete range of bilateral relations, including implementation of the ongoing Government of India-assisted projects... trade and economic ties, hydropower cooperation, and people to people contacts,” the statement said.

“The two sides also shared their perspective on regional and other issues of mutual interest,” the statement said without giving specifics.

“The unique relations between India and Bhutan are characterized by deep understanding and mutual trust. The visit of the Foreign Secretary was in keeping with tradition of regular high-level exchanges between the two countries to strengthen and expand the unique ties,” it added.

Bhutan has special ties with India and is closer to New Delhi than Beijing. Bhutan does not have diplomatic ties with China, something Beijing has been trying to rectify in the past few years. Bhutan also is in talks with China to settle their boundary, some sections of which are yet to be demarcated.

India’s boundaries with China too are yet to be demarcated—a legacy of their 1962 war.It was a dispute over terrirtorial claims that saw India and China face off against each other at Dokalam since 16 June. It followed Bhutan objecting to an attempt by Chinese troops to build a road on the Dokalam plateau that Bhutan said was part of its territory.

Indian troops stationed in Bhutan under a special security arrangement intervened to keep Chinese troops at bay. India said construction of the road would change the status quo and expressed concern that the road will allow China to cut off access to northeastern states.

The standoff ended on 28 August with both sides pulling back.

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