Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck began an eight-day visit to India on Friday, November 3. The trip comes amid a renewed push by Bhutan and China for an early settlement of their lingering boundary dispute.
Announcing the visit, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday said it would provide an opportunity for both sides to review the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation and to further advance the “exemplary” partnership.
The King will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. He will also visit Assam and Maharashtra, according to the MEA.
“The King of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, accompanied by senior officials of the Royal Government of Bhutan, will be on an official visit to India from November 3 to 10,” it said.
“India and Bhutan enjoy unique ties of friendship and cooperation, which are characterized by understanding and mutual trust,” the MEA said.
“The visit would provide an opportunity to both the sides to review the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation and to further advance the exemplary bilateral partnership, across diverse sectors,” it said in a statement.
The Bhutan King’s visit to India comes against the backdrop of new momentum in boundary talks between Bhutan and China. Last week, Bhutan’s Bhutan Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji held talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing.
A Chinese readout on the talks said Bhutan firmly abides by the one-China principle and stands ready to work with China for an early settlement of the boundary issue and advance the political process of establishing diplomatic relations. New Delhi has been keeping a close eye on the negotiations between Bhutan and China on their boundary row as it could have implications for New Delhi’s security interests, especially in the Doklam tri-junction.
In August, China and Bhutan agreed to expedite and take simultaneous steps to implement a “three-step roadmap to resolve their festering boundary dispute. In October 2021, Bhutan and China signed an agreement on the “three-step roadmap” to expedite negotiations to resolve their boundary dispute.
The signing of the pact came four years after the Indian and Chinese armies were locked in a 73-day stand-off at the Doklam tri-junction after China tried to extend a road in the area that Bhutan claimed belonged to it. The India-China stand-off in the Doklam plateau in 2017 even triggered fears of larger conflict between the two neighbours. Bhutan had said the area belonged to it and India supported the Bhutanese claim.