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China­-Bhutan boundary talks

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China­-Bhutan boundary talks


  • China and Bhutan held their 25th round of boundary talks in Beijing and signed a Cooperation Agreement on the “Responsibilities and Functions of the Joint Technical Team (JTT) on the Delimitation and Demarcation of the Bhutan-­China Boundary.”
  • This advances their 3­Step Roadmap initiated in 2021 for border resolution, building on the positive momentum since their last talks in 2016.

Why are the talks this week significant?

  • The Boundary talks between Bhutan and China were held after a gap of seven years and indicate significant progress has been made.
  • Bhutan and the Tibetan Autonomous Region share a contiguous border to Bhutan’s north and west.
  • Since 1984, Bhutan and China had held 24 rounds of talks to resolve the disputes until 2016, but the 25th round appeared to have been held up after the Doklam Standoff between Indian and Chinese armies in 2017, and then the COVID­19 pandemic in 2019­ 2021.
  • However, the two sides used the pause to hold talks at other levels in rapid succession, especially after China threatened to open a new front for a border dispute to Bhutan’s east.
  • Since then, the Expert Group of diplomats on both sides met in 2021 to agree on a 3­step roadmap, and the first boundary delimitation technical talks were held in August 2023.

What is the 3 ­Step Roadmap?

  • The 3 ­Step roadmap MoU signed by the Bhutanese Foreign Minister and Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister in 2021, and the JTT established to implement the roadmap by the Expert Group in August are hoping to draw a line clearly delineating Bhutanese and Chinese territory for the first time.
  • Bhutan and China don’t have diplomatic ties, as Bhutan has traditionally avoided diplomatic relations with all the United Nations Security Council permanent members.
  • The 3­Step Roadmap involves first, agreeing to the border “on the table”; then visiting the sites on the ground; and then formally demarcating the boundary.

Syllabus: Prelims + Mains; GS 2 – International Relations

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