Bhutan asks China to restore ‘status quo’

Sonam Tashi, Thimphu

Amid ongoing tensions between India and China at Doklam Plateau, the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB) has accused China of directly violating an agreement between the two countries by constructing a road inside Bhutanese territory.
In a Press Release issued by the ministry of foreign affairs on Thursday, it has been stated that the government has asked China to stop constructing the motorable road from Dokola in Doklam area towards the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) camp at Zompelri.
Further, it states that Bhutan has conveyed to the Chinese side, both on the ground and through diplomatic channel, that the construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory is a direct violation of the agreements and affects the process of demarcating the boundary between the two countries.

“Boundary talks are ongoing between Bhutan and China and we have written agreements of 1988 and 1998 stating that the two sides agree to maintain peace and tranquility in their border areas pending a final settlement on the boundary question, and to maintain status quo on the boundary as before March 1959,” it states.
The RGoB also reminded China that the agreements also state that the two sides will refrain from taking unilateral action, or use of force, to change the status quo of the boundary.
Bhutan, through the embassy office in New Delhi, had handed over a demarche to China’s Ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui to ask Beijing to order its troops to cease construction activities immediately, withdraw from the area and refrain from changing the status quo.
Donglong (Doklam) is a tri-junction area near the Chumbi Valley. It is under China’s control. However, Bhutan has been claiming the sovereignty over the area.
China’s claims
Speaking to the Chinese media last week, Lu Kang, the spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry said that they respect Bhutan’s sovereignty.
“Although the boundary between China and Bhutan is yet to be demarcated, the two sides have been working on that through peaceful negotiation. Any third party must not and does not have the right to interfere, still less make irresponsible moves or remarks that violate the fact,” he said.
Background
Bhutan and China have had a long standing boundary dispute over the Doklam Plateau Area, and have not been able to resolve it even after 24 rounds of bilateral talks, the last one of which took place in August 2016.

Though China and Bhutan do not have diplomatic relations, Bhutan maintains that there are written agreements that clearly state that no change will take place and peace in the area will prevail till a resolution is achieved.

Present situation at Doklam
Despite a three-week stand-off with the Indian Army and the RBA, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) continue to deploy construction machines in an effort to drive a dirt track along this strategic plateau. Officials of the Indian government said that PLA’s road works are aimed at bringing a road close to Dokola, India’s last military post on the junction in boundary with China and Bhutan.
Both sides have reinforced their positions amidst a continuing war of words between Beijing and New Delhi but the signs of imminent conflict in the area have been rejected by India.
Bhutan and India have been in ‘continuous contact’ over Doklam developments and efforts are being made by all the parties to resolve the issue diplomatically.
Meanwhile, India has not responded to the issue. New Delhi has likely been waiting for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s return from the three-nation tour. But the army chief of India, General Bipin Rawat, had recently visited the area to take stock of the situation.
Recently, even human rights activists from Europe and other parts of the world had condemned the Chinese incursion to Bhutanese territory.
A London-based human rights activist Peter Gary Tatchell told ANI news recently that China’s actions are threatening and destabilizing. “There should be no change in the status quo before a final agreement on border issues is secured. China should deescalate the tension by halting road construction and fast-tracking talks to resolve the territorial dispute,” he said.

 

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