Tshering Tobgay, the new prime minister of Bhutan, began his first overseas visit to India on Friday.
The Chinese wooing the Himalayan kingdom hard on the boundary tussle has added a new dimension to the ties between the neighbours, though it is nobody’s guess that Bhutan-China border issue may not be sorted out anytime in the near future.
China and Bhutan have agreed to hold a joint technical field survey of the Tibetan region where the borders of China, Bhutan and India meet. The survey is to take place in the first week of September. The 21st round of Bhutan-China talks were held in Thimpu on August 22 where the idea of a joint survey was underscored between the two sides.
China has made an offer of giving Bhutan 485 square km to Bhutan in return for a 269 square km from it. Though such proposals are part of any winding boundary talks, and take a long while to get into the final shape, this particular offer is of strategic consequence to India.
Strategic experts like M K Bhadrakumar has warned about this making the buffer zone between the ‘”Siliguri corridor and the Sino-Indian border in Chumbi valley area much too narrow for Delhi’s comfort.”
The Siliguri corridor is a narrow stretch of land that connects India’s north-eastern states to the rest of India, Bhutan lies on the northern side of the corridor. Nepal and Bangladesh are on either side of the corridor as well.
There are also long term concerns about Indian army’s presence in Bhutan. On Saturday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will hold discussions with Tobgay.