With China on its mind, India cozies up to Bhutan

  • Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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  • Updated: Feb 05, 2013 02:29 IST

Barely two weeks after Bhutan king was the chief guest at the Republic Day function, India will host the prime minister of the Himalayan country, Jigmi Y Thinley, on February 8.

With China wooing Bhutan hard and stepping up efforts for opening a consulate there, India is leaving no stone unturned to ensure the strategically-important Bhutan doesn't stray too far.

The second high-profile visit will take place days after King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck reaffirmed the unique ties with New Delhi, recalling what his father had said: New Delhi remained "the cornerstone" of Bhutan's foreign policy.

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But there are concerns in New Delhi about the Bhutan's move to have diplomatic ties with China.  The Himalayan country has remained the steadfast ally of India.

Jigme Thinley and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao met on the sidelines of the Rio+20 summit in June last year, after which the reports of Beijing opening a consulate in Bhutan gathered momentum. 

Wen Jiabao was also quoted in reports as saying that China was "willing to complete border demarcation with Bhutan at an early date." China and Bhutan have an unresolved 470-km long boundary.

Bhutan holds immense strategic significance for India. The Siliguri Corridor, a crucial tri-junction between Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal, is about 500 km from the Chumbi Valley in Tibet. The Siliguri corridor is the only access point to India's north east and it connects Nepal with Bhutan. Chumbi Valley, where China wants Bhutan to make concessions with, is of strategic significance to China because of its shared border with Tibet and Sikkim.

 

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