India, China should engage with each other; Bhutan needs to have diplomatic ties with Beijing: Karma Phuntsho

Q: What could have been the reason for the recent provocation and how should Bhutan have handled the aggression at the border by China?

A: The current crisis is a sign of how vulnerable, sensitive our geo-political situation is and how we could easily lose the peaceful, serene life we live here. It is very unfortunate that our two big neighbours, China and India, can sometimes become unnecessarily bellicose and it is quite sad that these two giants in Asia can’t come together to engage to solve problems, to have more an optimistic future for the whole region. It is certainly very disturbing for us here in Bhutan to know that some parts of Bhutan, the disputed area has become a battleground for these two big forces. I think our two big neighbours have to make an effort to engage each other in friendly terms and promote peace and prosperity.

Q: Is the recent crisis unprecedented?

 A: I am not a military historian so can’t talk about the past. What we do know is that Bhutan and China have been having border discussions for at least twenty four rounds in the past decades and it is important that we sit down with China and resolve the border issues at the earliest.

Q: Dr Karma, in terms of diplomatic exchanges, there are no engagements with China barring the border talks. What should Bhutan do?

A: I would certainly encourage engagement both between China and Bhutan and the two big neighbours. I am very positive in terms of having a diplomatic relationship. Bhutan should have very good relations with India and should sustain the same but Bhutan should also in its own time start diplomatic relations with China.

Q: Do you think tensions between India and China are the reasons for provocations by the Chinese at the border?

A: I don’t really know what geopolitical developments triggered this tension between China and India. Some people think it is because of the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Trump. But, if you look at history you would see that China and India for half a century now have been having a tense relationship and it is time they overcome and open up to more friendly relationship.

Q: What can Bhutan do to de-escalate tensions and convince China to return to pre-March 1959 status?

A: Our foreign office has already issued a demarche requesting China to stop construction of roads in the disputed area because the areas are claimed by both Bhutan and China and as there is an ongoing process of negotiation, any unilateral action wouldn’t be favourable to the negotiations. The foreign office has already sent a letter to Beijing and now we hope that China will take into account Bhutan’s reaction and we hope there wouldn’t be any military conflict in the region. This area should be treated as a buffer zone that is fully demilitarised and can remain as a safe buffer ecological zone between China and Bhutan.

Q: Can there be a resolution to the military standoff we are witnessing at the border?

A: The resolution really begins in the hearts of the leaders. I would, as a Bhutanese, make a plea to the leaders of China and India to resolve the issues peacefully and not make the disputed area a battleground between the two big powers.

Q: Do you think that Indo-Bhutan partnership and the rejection by Bhutan of diplomatic ties with China could be the reason for China being riled?

A: I personally don’t think China is aggressive with Bhutan. China actually has been outspoken about how it will support and respect Bhutan’s sovereignty and no third country should intervene on the sovereignty issue. I don’t think the Chinese hold any such malice or aggression towards Bhutan.

Q: How then do you see the current crisis and the threat perception?

A: If you take such pessimist approach, there would be many such dark imaginings. So, it’s very difficult for countries to get along with such fears. We should always promote better and friendly ties rather than fear mongering.

Bhutan is a very small country and it will be very difficult to influence big powers such as India or China on how they engage with neighbours, so I would say that China and India should take their own initiatives to develop a much better positive relationship with each other because it impacts them much more than third countries like Bhutan.






Source:- India Today

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