Jaishankar in Bhutan amid reports of fresh build-up by Chinese PLA near Doklam

Jaishankar in Bhutan amid reports of fresh build-up by Chinese PLA near Doklam
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar on Monday reached Thimphu, amidst reports about Chinese People's Liberation Army deploying more troops near India-Bhutan-China trijunction boundary point weeks after the stand-off in Doklam Plateau ended.

Jaishankar will meet top officials of Bhutanese Government during his stay in Thimphu. He is likely to call on Foreign Minister Damcho Dorjee and Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, sources told the DH in New Delhi.

Foreign Secretary's tour to Thimphu is the first public visit by a top official of Government of India to Bhutan after Doklam Plateau in the western region of Himalayan Kingdom turned into the scene of a 72-day-long stand-off between Indian Army and Chinese People's Liberation Army.

Sudhakar Dalela, Joint Secretary (North) in the Ministry of External Affairs, is accompanying Foreign Secretary on his visit to Bhutan. Dalela heads the Ministry of External Affairs division that looks after India's relations with Nepal and Bhutan.

Foreign Secretary's visit to Bhutan comes at a time when reports indicated that although the stand-off in Doklam Plateau had ended on August 28, the Chinese People's Liberation Army had deployed more troops in the forward posts it maintained in the vicinity.

New Delhi, however, did not officially acknowledge that Foreign Secretary's visit had anything to do with Chinese PLA's activities near India-China-Bhutan tri-junction boundary points.

The Chinese PLA personnel also purportedly intruded into the territory claimed by Thimphu at three points along the disputed border between Bhutan and China, even when the stand-off in Doklam Plateau drew global attention.

Though China withdrew its troops from Doklam Plateau on August 28 to end the military stand-off with India, both New Delhi and Thimphu are worried over the PLA's move to deploy more troops in the vicinity and repeated intrusions into the territory claimed by Bhutan.

The issue is likely to be discussed when Foreign Secretary will call on Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Bhutan and meet top officials of Bhutanese Government, sources said.

Jaishankar, according to the sources, is also likely to discuss with senior officials of Bhutanese Government a proposal for a trilateral mechanism, involving representatives of India, China and Bhutan, to settle the tri-junction boundary point. New Delhi is keen to have a trilateral arrangement led by senior officials of India, China and Bhutan for settling the dispute over the tri-junction boundary point.

Apart from Bhutan, India and China share tri-junction boundary points with Myanmar and Nepal – at Diphu Pass and Lipulekh Pass respectively. 

New Delhi and Beijing had in 2012 agreed that the tri-junction boundary points among India, China and third countries would be finalized in consultation with the third countries.

Thimphu is of late also worried about Beijing's dilly-dallying on scheduling the next round of negotiations to settle China-Bhutan boundary dispute. Bhutan and China in August 2016 held the 24th round of negotiations to resolve the boundary dispute between the two nations. Though the 25th round was to be held this year, Beijing so far showed no interest in scheduling it, prompting Thimphu to fear that China might suspend the negotiations and continue to occupy the territory of Bhutan bit by bit through low-profile incursions by the PLA troops, sources told the DH.

Beijing is upset with Thimphu as Bhutan's position during the stand-off in Doklam Plateau was in sync with India's. 

The Chinese PLA personnel had come to Doklam Plateau – a disputed territory on Bhutan-China border – on June 16 and started building a road, brushing off protests by Royal Bhutan Army soldiers camping nearby. The Indian Army personnel from nearby Doka La post in Sikkim had intervened two days later, leading to the stand-off.

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