Army chief Manoj Pande on Bhutan visit days after pics exposed China's inroads near Doklam
General Manoj Pande is scheduled to meet King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth king of Bhutan besides holding talks with his counterpart in the Royal Bhutan Army.
Army chief General Manoj Pande on Friday began a two-day visit to Bhutan days after new satellite images emerged indicating the construction of a Chinese village east of the Doklam plateau on the Bhutanese side, a region that is considered important for India’s strategic interest.
Pande is scheduled to meet King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth king of Bhutan besides holding talks with his counterpart in the Royal Bhutan Army, reported news agency PTI.
"This visit will further enhance the unique and time-tested bilateral relationship, characterised by utmost trust, goodwill and mutual understanding," the army said in a brief statement.
Pande will begin his visit by paying homage at the National Memorial Chorten at Thimpu, built in the memory of the third King of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk.
"The Chief of Army Staff is scheduled to have an audience with His Majesty the King and His Majesty the Fourth King," the army said.
"The Army Chief will also engage in extensive discussions with his counterpart in the Royal Bhutan Army to exchange views on taking forward the strong cultural and professional bonds between both the armies," it added.
After the images of Doklam came out on July 19, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) had said India keeps a constant watch on all developments having bearing on national security and takes necessary measures to safeguard its interests.
It is learnt that the overall situation in the Doklam plateau as well as Chinese activities in the region are set to figure in Pande's talks with his Bhutanese interlocutors.
73-day stand-off at Doklam
The Indian and PLA troops 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.
In October last year, Bhutan and China signed an agreement on a "three-step roadmap" to expedite negotiations to resolve their festering boundary dispute.
Bhutan shares an over 400-km-long border with China and the two countries have held over 24 rounds of boundary talks in a bid to resolve the dispute.
The Doklam tri-junction is considered important from the point of view of India's security interests.
The India-China stand-off in the Doklam plateau in 2017 even triggered fears of a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. Bhutan said the area belonged to it and India supported the Bhutanese claim.
India had strongly opposed the construction of the road at the Doklam tri-junction as it would have impacted its overall security interests.
The India-China face-off was resolved following several rounds of talks.
(With inputs from agencies)