Foreign Secretary Kwatra visits Bhutan as new government assumes power.

Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra embarked on a three-day visit to Bhutan on Monday, following the appointment of newly-elected Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay. This visit holds great importance as the new government prepares to address the intricate task of negotiating a border settlement with China.

During his visit, Kwatra has a scheduled meeting with King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk, Prime Minister Tsobgay, and other high-ranking Bhutanese officials, including the Foreign Minister.

In 2021, Bhutan and China agreed on a three-step roadmap to resolve their ongoing border dispute. This roadmap entails delineating the border on maps, followed by surveys and formal demarcation, according to observers. Progress in these border talks has been relatively swift, with the establishment of technical teams and the 25th round of border talks held in August and October 2023, respectively.

The resolution of the border issue is expected to pave the way for formal diplomatic relations between Bhutan and China. Bhutan, which has faced economic challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and labor outflows, stands to benefit from potential Chinese investments.

Meanwhile, India closely monitors these border negotiations, particularly in the context of the Doklam tri-junction, where past standoffs have occurred. Bhutan has been a longstanding diplomatic ally of India and has faced increasing pressure from China to settle the boundary dispute.

Both Bhutan and India maintain open communication regarding the progress of talks between Thimpu and Beijing. Bhutan’s King made two visits to India in 2023, engaging in multiple high-level meetings. India has reaffirmed its support for Bhutan’s five-year plans and the hydropower sector, highlighting the strong bilateral ties between the two nations.

Foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra has begun a three-day visit to Bhutan, where he is scheduled to meet with high-ranking officials, including the King and Prime Minister. The visit is significant as the new Bhutanese government prepares to negotiate a border settlement with China. Bhutan and China have made progress in their border talks, and resolving the dispute could lead to formal diplomatic relations and potential Chinese investments in Bhutan. India closely monitors the negotiations due to its longstanding alliance with Bhutan and past standoffs at the Doklam tri-junction. Bhutan and India maintain open communication, and India has reaffirmed its support for Bhutan’s development plans.

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