Asia in Review Archive
Date of AiR edition
17 August 2021
Indo-Pacific forces from 21 partner nations kick off SEACAT
(lm) Maritime forces from Indo-Pacific partner nations on August 10 began the 20th iteration of the Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) naval exercise in Singapore and virtually. [Al Jazeera] [NavyTimes]
Signifying the largest iteration to date, this year’s exercise involves ten ships and more than 400 personnel. 21 nations participate, including Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, New Zealand, Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam.
This year’s also presents a new element by incorporating international organizations and nongovernmental organizations, whose objective is to create an even more realistic scenario to “enhance understanding and adherence to accepted rules, laws, and norms,” the US Navy said in a statement. Participants include United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), EU Critical Maritime Route Wider Indian Ocean (CRIMARIO), and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). [Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet]
The SEACAT exercises commenced just a day after more than 10,000 troops from China and Russia began a major exercise, West-Interaction 2021, in China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. [AiR No. 32, August/2021, 2]
Last year, the event was conducted as part of a virtual symposium amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
10 August 2021
With China as its door, India plans to upgrade air operations capability in eastern Ladakh
(lm) India is reportedly considering expanding its capability to operate its fixed-wing aircrafts from at least three facilities near its unsettled border in the Himalayas with China. [mint]
Reports about New Delhi’s plans come after news reporting earlier this month suggested that China was upgrading an airbase in its Xinjiang autonomous region, which borders India’s union territory of Ladakh, for fighter aircraft operations.
While the People’s Liberation Army Air Force significantly outnumbers its Indian counterpart, the Indian Airforce enjoys a distinct terrain advantage in combat potential. For all existing Chinese airbases facing India are located at high-altitude, which severely limits the weapon and fuel-carrying capacity of the fighter jets. [The EurAsian Times]
Last month, eight new Rafale fighter jets were formally inducted at the Hasimara Air Force Station, the closest Indian air base to the tri-junction between the Indian state of Sikkim, Bhutan and the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Since March, the first squadron comprising 18 omni-role fighters has been fully operational at the Ambala Air Force Station [see AiR No. 12, March/2021, 4]. The remaining 10 of the overall 36 planes, contracted under a $9.2 billion deal inked with French defense manufacturer Dassault Aviation in 2016, are expected to arrive in batches before the deadline of April next year.
29 June 2021
Bhutan: Parliament’s upper house passes bill to strengthen civil society
(lm) The upper house of Bhutan’s Parliament, the National Council, has passed an amendment bill seeking to strengthen civil society organizations (CSOs) in the country. There are currently 63 registered CSOs in Bhutan; another 25 are awaiting registration.
The Civil Society Organizations (Amendment) Bill 2021 was tabled earlier this month following an initial review of the original 2007 legislation by the Foreign Affairs Committee. Later, the Legislative Committee proposed amendments to about 20 sections in the Act.
Under the revised legislation, the government is now inter alia required to make adequate financial provisions for the independent administration of the CSO Authority, a government body that is supposed to mediate between the government and the various organizations.
1 June 2021
China is gradually invading Bhutanese territory to gain military advantage over India, says report
(lm) A new report, published by Foreign Policy, has claimed that China has built a village eight kilometers within territory belonging to its Himalayan neighbor, Bhutan, as part of its move to expand and develop its infrastructure in the border regions of Tibet.
The new village is located in Bhutan’s northern district of Lhuntse but has been marked as being part of Lhodrak in the Tibetan Administrative Region (TAR) by China. The report says that Beijing has been gradually and stealthily seizing chunks of lands from Bhutan for years, following a 2017 drive flagged off by Chinese President Xi Jinping to fortify the Tibetan borderlands. Thus, the researchers argue that China is following the same piecemeal, step-by-step approach in Bhutan it previously used in the South China Sea, that is, shifting the status quo without triggering a major conflict with its neighbors or the United States. [Foreign Policy]
China reportedly claims roughly 12 percent of Bhutan’s territory – four areas in the west of Bhutan, three in the north, and one in the east – with no mutual understanding between the two nations on what constitutes the border. In July of last year Beijing for the first time publicly put on record that is has a border dispute with Bhutan over the country`s eastern sector, and – in a tangential reference to India – said that “a third party should not point fingers” in the Sino-Bhutan border dispute [see AiR No. 28, July/2020, 2]. During a four-day meeting of experts between China and Bhutan this April, then, the two sides agreed to resume long-delayed talks on their disputed boundary [see AiR No. 16, April/2021, 3].
Importantly, the report suggests does not actually need the land it is settling in Bhutan but rather is planning to use it as a security to force the Bhutanese government to cede other territory that may give it a military advantage in its struggle with India. [Bloomberg] [The EurAsian Times]
For China has tried building roads into Bhutan before—but mainly in its western areas and with limited success. In 2017, China’s attempt to build a road across the Doklam plateau in southwestern Bhutan, next to the trijunction with India, resulted in a 73-day military standoff between India and China. Consequently, China had to put its road construction through Doklam on hold. Back then, New Delhi – which has historically close ties and considerable influence over Bhutan – supported Thimphu’s claims, in part because the area is close to the Siliguri corridor, a narrow stretch of land also known as the ‘Chicken’s Neck’ that connects India’s north-east with the mainland. [The Week]
In November of last year, then, an Indian media outlet reported that Beijing had set up a village more than two kilometers within Bhutanese territory and built a road in the same area. China denied the claim, but it is possible, as some analysts have speculated, that Bhutan had quietly ceded that territory to China but not announced it to the outside world. [AiR No. 48, December/2020, 1]
It is also possible that Beijing wants to use the territory as leverage to pressure Bhutan to open full relations with China, which would allow Beijing to have a diplomatic presence in Thimphu. This would offset India’s influence in Bhutan, an aim that China has largely achieved in Nepal.
11 May 2021
EU and India to boost trade, Indo-Pacific partnership
(lm) The European Union and India have agreed to resume long-stalled talks on a free trade deal, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on May 8. Brussel and New Delhi will also launch negotiations on reciprocal investments and on the protection of so-called geographical indications. [South China Morning Post]
Earlier on May 8, the first EU-Indian Leaders’ Meeting brought together all 27 heads of the EU member states and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Considering that previous EU-India summits have involved only the Indian prime minister and the heads of the European Commission and the European Council, the recent summit signals the bloc’s renewed interest in the Indo-Pacific region. [Reuters]
Last month, the EU Council asked the European Commission and high representatives to draw up the bloc’s Indo-Pacific strategy by September this year. In doing so, the Council unveiled the strategy’s main thrust, which included exploring closer economic ties with India and pledging to foster a rules-based order with “free and open maritime supply routes in full compliance with international law”, without naming China.
Earlier last week, the EU also said that efforts to ratify the proposed EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) with China had been suspended after Beijing imposed sanctions on several high-profile members of the European Parliament, three members of national parliaments, two EU committees, and several China-focused European academics.
For a comprehensive examination of the decision, please consider Chris Devonshire-Ellis’ comment for [China Briefing].
11 May 2021
Bhutan: Home minister resigns after being convicted of insurance fraught
(lm) Prime Minister Lotay Tshering has accepted the resignation of the country’s home minister, who had tendered his resignation last month after being convicted by the country’s High Court over insurance fraught. The former minister also suspended his membership of parliament’s lower house but is yet to resign from his party. [EastMojo]
Earlier in March, the High Court upheld an earlier judgement from October of last year that had convicted the home minister to two months in prison. A review petition with the Supreme Court is still pending.
20 April 2021
India’s shadow looms over revived China-Bhutan border talks
(lm) During a four-day meeting of experts between China and Bhutan last week, the two sides agreed to resume long-delayed talks on their disputed boundary, but analysts say a breakthrough is unlikely, given Indian influence over Bhutan. [South China Morning Post] [The EurAsian Times]
Since 1984, Bhutan and China have held 24 rounds of talks, with discussions being limited to three areas of dispute in the western and central sections of the boundary. Talks have been frozen since 2017, however, following the months-long border stand-off between China and India in Doklam, a territory claimed by both Beijing and Thimphu. Back then, New Delhi, which has historically close ties and considerable influence over Bhutan, supported Thimphu’s claims, in part because the area is close to the Siliguri corridor, a narrow stretch of land also known as the ‘Chicken’s Neck’ that connects India’s north-east with the mainland. The issue ended inconclusively when both India and China agreed to withdraw from the plateau in August 2017. [AiR 29. December 2017]
In July of last year, then, Beijing for the first time publicly put on record that is has a border dispute with Bhutan over the country`s eastern sector, and – in a tangential reference to India – said that “a third party should not point fingers” in the Sino-Bhutan border dispute. Beijing`s assertion followed earlier attempts to stop the funding for the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS) in eastern Bhutan’s Trashigang district, which China claimed was “disputed”. [AiR No. 28, July/2020, 2]
6 April 2021
Bhutan: Lawmakers draft gender scrutiny action plan
(lm) Bhutanese parliamentarians have recommended a 30 percent quota to ensure that women constitute at least a critical minority in political parties, executive positions constitutional bodies and the judiciary. To remove legal barriers while implementing the recommendations, participants of the three-day workshop by the Bhutan Women Parliamentary Caucus (BWPC) also proposed amending some legislation. [Kuensel]
In the latest Global Gender Gap Report 2021 of the World Economic Forum, Bhutan ranks 130 among 153 countries. While evaluating the progress being made by South Asian nations over the past 12 months, the report notes that only Bhutan, along with Nepal, has demonstrated small but positive progress towards gender parity. The number of women elected to parliament increased from 8.3 percent in the 2013 election to 15.2 percent in 2018 – the highest percentage of women in parliament in the country’s history. [World Economic Forum]
30 March 2021
Bhutan: Government approved 10 Foreign Direct Investment projects in 2020, according to report
Last year, the Bhutanese government has approved ten Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) projects, according to an annual report published last week. Although the number of approved projects declined by two as compared to 2019, the value of the projects approved last year increased by 80 percent to almost $30 million. Notably, India remains the major source of FDI investments in the country, with five of the 10 projects coming from the South Asian giant. [Kuensel]
Separately, Bhutan initiated its nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign on March 27, after receiving an additional 400,000 free doses from India’s Covishield (the local name for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine developed in the United Kingdom). Bhutan was among the first countries to receive free consignments of the vaccine in January [see AiR No. 5, February/2021, 1]
30 March 2021
Bangladesh stresses importance of infrastructure project to develop trade with Bhutan
(lm) Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on March 24 held a meeting with visiting Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, discussing various fields of cooperation between the two countries, notably trade and connectivity. The Bhutanese prime minister was in Dhaka to attend the 10-day-long grand celebration commemorating the birth centenary of the country’s founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 50 years of independence from Pakistan [see AiR No. 12, March/2021, 4].
The two leaders discussed the possibility of a bilateral or tripartite agreement to build a hydropower project in Bhutan. Prime Minister Hasina also offered to her country’s waterways to expand bilateral trade. In December, both countries had signed a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), the first such agreement Bangladesh signed with any country since its independence in 1971. [The Daily Star]
23 March 2021
Bhutan: Gender-based violence spiked during last year
(lm) The number of people experiencing gender-based violence has increased by 53.5 percent over the course of last year, according to local NGO Respect, Educate, Nurture, and Empower Women (RENEW), which provides emergency, comprehensive and integrated services to the survivors of domestic and gender-based violence. Last year, more than 1,000 people – i.e. at least 3 people per day – have experienced gender-based violence, according to RENEW. [Kuensel]
23 February 2021
Bhutan: Top general, two judges held for plot to overthrow military, judiciary leaders
(lm) Police in Bhutan have detained a top general and two judges accused of plotting to overthrow the country’s top military officer by implicating him in a corruption scandal. All three were denied bail and will remain in custody until a first formal hearing scheduled for February 27. According to Bhutanese media, the plot was revealed to authorities by a woman detained a few months ago. [The Straits Times] [Kuensel]
19 January 2021
China in the “U.S. Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific”
(dql) Shortly before Joe Biden will be sworn in as US President in this week, the Trump administration declassified and published the “U.S. Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific”, approved by President Trump in 2018 and stamped secret and not for release to foreign nationals until 2043.
The 10-page national security strategy paper identifies maintaining “U.S. strategic primacy over the Indo-Pacific region,” and promoting “a liberal economic order, while preventing China from establishing new, illiberal spheres of influence and cultivating areas of cooperation to promote regional peace and prosperity” one of three national security challenges, along with North Korea’s threat to the US and its allies as well as the advancement of US global economic leadership.
Furthermore, the document assumes that the “[s]trategic competition between the United States and China will persists,” with China “circumvent[ing] international norms and rules to gain advantage,” and seeking to “dissolve U.S. alliances and partnerships,” in order to “exploit vacuums and opportunities created by these diminished bonds.”
As an desired outcome with regards to China, the “United States and its partners on every continent” shall become “resistant to Chinese activities aimed at undermining their sovereignty, including through covert or coercive influence.” [White House, USA]
For a concise assessment of what has been achieved under this strategic framework, see Grant Newsham in [Asia Times] who argues that “Trump and his staff are handing off to Joseph Biden an Indo-Pacific that is better off than it was in 2017.
15 December 2020
Bhutan establishes diplomatic relations with Israel
(lm) Bhutan has established formal diplomatic relations with Israel, the Jewish state’s foreign ministry announced on December 12. [South China Morning Post]
Since 1949, the year Bhutan first signed a friendship agreement with neighboring India, it has been historically cautious about establishing formal diplomatic ties with other nations. Until 2008, when Bhutan conducted its first general election, it had maintained diplomatic relations with just 22 countries, which form the ‘Friends of Bhutan’ group, along with Japan, which contributes towards development projects in Bhutan. After the election of Prime Minister Jogme Thinley in 2008, then, the Bhutanese government rapidly increased its diplomatic foray, signing agreements with 31 countries in just five years.
In November, Bhutan established formal diplomatic relations with Germany, marking the first new diplomatic agreement signed by Bhutan since March 2013, when it had established ties with Oman [see AiR No. 48, December/2020, 1]. Still, Bhutan to date did not open ties with any of the permanent five members of the UN Security Council (UNSC), despite repeated requests from the United States and neighboring China, in particular.
15 December 2020
Bhutan: Parliament decriminalizes homosexuality
(lm) A joint sitting of both houses of Bhutan’s Parliament approved a Bill on December 10 to repeal two sections of the country’s 2004 criminal code which deemed ‘unnatural sex’ between consenting adults – widely interpreted as homosexuality – illegal. The changes still need to be approved by the King of Bhutan to become a law. [The Straits Times]
Lat year, the motion to repeal the penal code provisions was passed almost unanimously in the National Assembly. However, the National Council, Parliament’s upper house, did not support the wholesale scrapping of the two sections, and, instead, sent the amendment bill with certain changes for reconsideration to the lower house [see AiR No. 46, November/2020, 3].
The following day, the joint sitting of both houses amended various sections of the penal code to increase the punishment in cases involving rape, rape of children, and pregnant women in the country. Earlier, rights activists had called for more effective strategies and interventions in minimizing and preventing rape cases in the country, including stricter punishment for offenders [see AiR No. 46, November/2020, 3]. [Kuensel]
1 December 2020
Bhutan establishes diplomatic relations with Germany
(lm) Bhutan has established formal diplomatic relations with Germany last week, marking the first new diplomatic agreement signed by Bhutan since March 2013, when it had established ties with Oman. In spite of the agreement, Berlin is not planning to set up an embassy in Thimphu at present, and will continue to conduct its relations through its embassy in New Delhi. [The Economic Times]
Since 1949, the year Bhutan first signed a friendship agreement with neighboring India, it has been historically cautious about establishing formal diplomatic ties with other nations. Until 2008, when Bhutan conducted its first general election, it had maintained diplomatic relations with just 22 countries, which form the ‘Friends of Bhutan’ group, along with Japan, which contributes towards development projects in Bhutan. After the election of Prime Minister Jogme Thinley in 2008, then, the Bhutanese government rapidly increased its diplomatic foray, signing agreements with 31 countries in just five years. Still, Bhutan to date did not open ties with any of the permanent five members of the UN Security Council (UNSC), despite repeated requests from the United States and neighboring China, in particular. [The Hindu]
17 November 2020
Bhutan: Rights body calls for stricter punishment for sexual crimes against women and children
(lm) The National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) in Bhutan has called for more effective strategies and interventions in minimizing and preventing rape cases in the country, including stricter punishment for offenders. [Kuensel 1]
Sex crimes have surged in Bhutan over the past decade, with attacks on children accounting for 70 percent of the 530 rape cases reported between 2008 and 2020, according to data compiled by the rights body. On average, four women or children have been raped every month between 2009-2013. But what is more, of the 45 cases of rape of minors the commission reviewed, almost two-third of perpetrators received minimum sentencing for no definite reason or for lack of past criminal record. [Kuensel 2]
17 November 2020
Bhutan: Lower house of Parliament to reconsider resolution that seeks to decriminalize homosexuality
(lm) The lower house of Parliament will reconsider its resolution from last year that sought to repeal two sections of the country’s 2004 criminal code which deemed ‘unnatural sex’ between consenting adults illegal. While there have been no known prosecutions under the law, rights activists say provisions like the one in question dissuade many from disclosing their sexual identity out of fear of social hostilities. [Kuensel]
Last June, the motion to repeal the penal code provisions was passed almost unanimously in the National Assembly. However, the National Council, Parliament’s upper house, didn’t support the wholesale scrapping of the two sections, and, instead, sent the amendment bill with certain changes for reconsideration to the lower house.
1 September 2020
Bhutan: Temporary suspension of tobacco sales ban
(ls) Bhutan has temporarily lifted its domestic ban on tobacco sales. The decision aims to curb infections that tobacco smugglers may bring across the southern border with India, where the number of Covid-19 cases have sharply increased in recent weeks. Bhutan’s Tobacco Control Act bans the sale, cultivation, distribution and promotion of tobacco products but does allow limited imports for personal consumption. [Nikkei Asian Review]
21 July 2020
India-Bhutan: New trade route opened
(ls) India and Bhutan have launched a new trade route between Jaigaon in West Bengal and Ahllay in Bhutan. It is aimed at facilitating the trade of goods and strengthening the sub-regional cooperation. Bhutan, which is in a border quarrel with China [AiR, No. 28, July/2020, 2], is a key buffer state between India and China and critical for India’s security in the region. [Economic Times]
14 July 2020
China expands scope of border disputes, stoking another with neighbouring Bhutan
(lm) Earlier this month, the Chinese government for the first time publicly put on record that is has a border dispute with Bhutan over the country`s eastern sector saying to a newspaper that “[t]here have been disputes over the eastern, central and western sectors for a long time”. In a tangential reference to India, the Foreign Ministry added that “a third party should not point fingers” in the Sino-Bhutan border dispute. [Hindustan Times] [The Straits Times]
Beijing`s assertion follows attempts at a virtual meeting of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in late June to stop the funding for the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS) in eastern Bhutan’s Trashigang district, claiming that the location was “disputed”. Bhutan objected to the claim over the sanctuary, issuing a demarche to Beijing’s embassy in New Delhi. The Global Environmental Facility council later passed the project for funding. [The Hindu 1]
Between 1984 and 2016, Bhutan and China have held 24 rounds of talks to resolve their border dispute. According to discussions in the Bhutanese parliament and other public records of these meetings, the discussions hitherto have only been limited to three areas of dispute in the western and central sections of the boundary. Talks have been frozen, however, since the last round in 2016, partly due to the heightened tensions that erupted during the 2017 Doklam standoff. Back then, India supported Bhutan’s claims as the area is also strategically close to India’s Silliguri Corridor, a narrow stretch of land that connects the country’s north-east to the mainland. The issue ended inconclusively when both India and China agreed to withdraw from the plateau in August 2017. [AiR 29. December 2017]
Observers believe the addition of the eastern sector to be not so much a contest over territory as it is of Beijing’s desire to punish Bhutan for allying with its regional rival India. China seems determined to complicate the special relationship between India and Bhutan by creating a wedge between the two South Asian neighbours. In late June, India and Bhutan signed a pact for their first-ever joint venture hydropower project. [The Diplomat] [The Hindu 2]
As the wildlife sanctuary borders the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims in its entirety as part of “south Tibet”, the development will likely be seen as coercive by India. Partly in response to China`s new claims on the eastern region, New Delhi last week already dusted off proposals over the construction of a road that would allow India to mobilise its troops across the disputed boundary with Beijing in Arunachal Pradesh, but also towards the eastern region of Bhutan. [Deccan Herald] [The Economic Times]
28 January 2020
Bhutan: Nationwide Goods and Service Tax introduced
(jk) Bhutan’s Ministry of Finance has introduced a 7 percent Goods and Service Taxes (GST), replacing other multiple sales and customs taxes. The tax will apply nationwide. [Tax Scan]
15 October 2019
Are China and Bhutan close to striking a Doklam deal?
(jk) [The Print], citing a “top government official” claims that “China and Bhutan are working out something with regard to their dispute in the Doklam plateau. The status quo is being maintained and both sides (India and China) are holding on their positions as per the de-escalation move,” which, if true, would mean that China were to keep the territory it has “claimed” since the Doklam stand-off two years ago.
In 2017, China moved into Bhutanese territory and began building a road in a strategically dangerous location for India. Indian forces then stepped in and physically prevented the road building to continue. After about two months, Chinese agreed to stop building the road and retreated a couple of hundred metres. This “holding line” could now become the “working boundary.”
Date of AiR edition
11 June 2019
Bhutan decriminalizes gay sex
(ls) Bhutan’s lower house overwhelmingly voted last Friday to repeal two sections of the 2004 criminal code which made “unnatural sex” illegal. The law had never been used, but Finance Minister Namgay Tshering, who submitted the recommendation to repeal sections 213 and 214, said they had become “a stain” on the country’s reputation. Especially in Bhutan’s rural areas, transgender people still face discrimination. [Channel News Asia]
23 October 2018
Power Shift in Bhutan that might favour India
(jk) In the third elections after democracy has been introduced to the Himalayan Kingdom in 2008, voters decided for a power shift to the centre-left party (Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa – DNT) which has won 30 seats in the 47-member National Assembly, the lower house of the Bhutanese parliament. All other seats are held by one opposition party which is intended by the Constitution according to which only two parties with the highest votes in the primary round qualify for the final round. Voter turnout was relatively high at 71 percent of registered voters and Bhutan’s next prime minister will be 50-year-old surgeon Lotay Tshering from DNT. [Economic Times]
The elections have been watched closely by both China and India who vow for influence in the small kingdom. India has long been a traditional partner and plays a significant role in Bhutan’s development. China has been making inroads though through its Belt and Road initiative and Bhutan has been the location of stand-offs between India and China before, most recently in last year’s “Doklam” dispute [Washington Times].
Due to the sensitivities, foreign policy was kept out of the election campaign. During the 2013 campaign, fearing that Bhutan was moving too close to China, India withdrew certain subsidies in an alleged attempt to influence a change of government. Relations with India remain sensitive and some candidates and activists were fined for sending statements on relations with India. Under the new government India’s position as a special partner will remain secured. [SCMP]
2 October 2018
Bhutan & Nepal: Readjusting priorities between China and India?
(ls) India’s neighbor Bhutan approaches the third general election in the country’s history on 18 October 2018. In September, voters had unexpectedly ousted the ruling People’s Democratic Party in the primary, along with it the pro-India Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay. That has awakened concerns over how the new government will manage its relations with China and India. In July 2017, geopolitical tensions surfaced when China began building a road along the sensitive Doklam Plateau on the Bhutan-Tibet border, which China claims as its own, without informing the Bhutanese capital of Thimpu. [Asia Sentinel]
Observers have held that a change in guard at Thimphu does not necessarily mean a pro-China tilt, however, it could lead to Bhutan trying to pursue a more equated relationship with both India and China. The Chinese may offer greater funding than India can afford. However, Bhutan may not be looking for huge investments. [DailyO]
Nepal’s quest for an alternate transit country with a view to reducing its dependence on India succeeded with the finalization of the text for the Protocol of Transit Transport Agreement with China on 7 September 2018. As per this text, China formally agreed to provide seven transit points – four sea ports (Tianjin (Xingang), Shenzhen, Lianyungang, Zhanjiang) and three land ports (Lanzhou, Lhasa, Xigatse) – to Nepal for trade with third countries. Nepal’s move towards China was sparked by India’s 2015-16 limitation of cargo movements through major India-Nepal border points. An analysis of the agreement has been published by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) in New Delhi. [IDSA]
24 July 2018
China-Buthan relations: Border talks resumed
(dql/am) A year after the Doklam standoff between China and India, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou made a three-days visit to Bhutan to resume discussions on border issues centred on the Doklam plateau claimed by both China and Bhutan. In 1996 China proposed a deal under which Bhutan would obtain approximately 764 square kilometers of land in the middle and western sector of the border in exchange of 100 square kilometers land in the strategically important Doklam plateau, which serves as a tri-junction of China, Bhutan and India. [Sputnik News]
Meanwhile, India’s Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has finished the construction of a strategically important road in Bhutan, connecting one of Bhutan’s border towns with its capital Thimphu. The 30-km long road is one of several India-funded infrastructure projects in Bhutan, which is strategically important for India due to its location and border with China. [The Times of India]
20 May 2018
Political parties’ take on the state of democracy in Bhutan
(am) As Bhutan completes 10 years of being a democratic constitutional monarchy, representatives from various political parties gathered to discuss the current state of democracy in Bhutan.
The forum aimed at giving people and political parties a much-needed open space in the election year for healthy discussions on political issues. [Kuensel]
29 December 2017
India-China relations: Talks and questions of intent in border dispute
(kg) Chinese state media reported this week that China and India have reached agreement to “properly handle” border disputes. The 20th round of talks between Chinese and Indian special representatives on boundary issues took place in New Delhi Friday. During the talks, both sides “agreed to strengthen strategic communication and boost strategic mutual trust” [Xinhua]. Just how far that “strategic mutual trust” goes remains to be seen, though, and the Doklam standoff is being closely monitored by all nations of the region.
Some are watching to determine if India will continue to support Bhutan against China. Southeast Asian nations are watching China’s reactions to India’s resistance, as a possible lesson to resolving their own border disputes in the future. What is likely, according to the author of this piece, is that China will try something different soon: it has a number of options to intimidate Bhutan and to impose costs on India as a result of its recent increase in force structure and infrastructure in the region. India, says the author, should be wary, and cannot expect China to make the same mistakes it has made in its recent gambits there [Eurasia Review].