Inviting challenge

What's ours

The MP representing Bji-Katsho-Uesu, raised a very familiar question in the National Assembly last Friday. He asked the Foreign Minister to explain the status of the Sino-Bhutan border discussions.

The government’s reply – provided by Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk, the acting foreign minister – was also very familiar. He reported that the border talks between Bhutan and China began in 1984; that the two governments have met 19 times since then; that in 1988, the two governments agreed to four guiding principles; that in 1998, the two governments signed an agreement to maintain peace and tranquility on the Bhutan-China border areas in accordance with the accepted boundaries before 1959; and that various expert groups had met many other times.

A lot of work has been done. But, in spite of all that work, we are no closer to finalizing our international borders with China than we were in 1984. On the other hand, the Chinese appear to threaten encroaching on our soil every now and then. In 2004 and 2009 they built roads inside our country; in 2008 and 2009 the Chinese army intruded deep into our country no less than 17 times; they’ve built temporary huts inside our country; almost every year, Tibetans enter our country illegally, grazing in our pastures, killing our yaks and poaching our cordyceps; and on Friday, the Bji-Katsho-Uesu MP reported that our people living in the border areas are alarmed about the Chinese now building permanent houses inside our country.

A lot of work has been done. And the government promises to do more; that basically means that they will continue to conduct the bilateral meetings, diligently and hopefully.

So I pointed out in the Assembly that the numerous meetings don’t seem to be helping, that we have not made any significant progress in finalizing our northern border. And I suggested that the government might want to consider new strategies to resolve the long outstanding border issue with China.

In response to my suggestion, Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk looked towards me, and declared that the government would welcome any alternative strategy that members of the Parliament might have in mind. His offer sounded more like a challenge than a genuine invitation.

Still, here’s my view, my biggest alternative strategy: visit Beijing.

Yes, visit China. Our government has been in office for almost 4 years now, and, so far, no one – not the Prime Minister, not any other minister, not even a government secretary – has visited China. This can’t continue. We cannot ignore our northern neighbour, not if we really want to resolve our border with them; not if we want to fully secure our national sovereignty.

Our PM has visited countless countries, from the US in the west to Japan in the east, and many countries in between. But he’s ignored China. And we cannot afford to do so. He must go to China. If he really wants to make a breakthrough in finalizing our northern borders, he must go to China.


Facebook Comments:


  1. visiting china will require invitation from there!This border issue is not simple as we think…it requires continue engagement/talking as it is going on….simply visiting chhina wil not solve the problem….as ol pointed out,we need to change the strategy….so all should think n come out with some strategy instead of just complaining….as much as ol,everyone wants to solve the problem….let us unite to solve border issue of blaming each other….

  2. Kelpazangla says

    As far as I understand, the northern border challenge is not technical but political and the current of the political problem is not really from north but it is from south.

    Therefore, PM/FM’s required visit for the northern border discussion is to New Delhi and not to Bejing.

    Correct me if I am wrong.

  3. i agree with kalpazala

  4. PM/FM’s visits to China can wait until a window opportunity arises. Let the ministers responsible for cultural and economic affairs go first. And it is not necessary to call it a PM’s Representative visit. Show to the world the willingness of the peoples of Bhutan and China to develop friendship through cultural and economic exchanges. The private sectors would know how to follow up.

  5. Pem namgay says

    I dont know the strategy but the Norther border always worries me as a citizen of Bhutan. It worries my Bhutanese. Denying is never the solution. Solution is to face it and try to solve it now. We cannot pass on the bug to our future generations. We must solve ASAP. Thank you la for raising this extremely important issue. Hopefully something comes up soon.

  6. Kelpazangla says

    Dear gus, there is no need to visit China. The visit should be to New Delhi and request our Southern brother to let us freely negotiate the nothern border.

  7. My Dear OL and others,
    I have personally seen Sino-Bhutan border maps on GoogleEarth and inch by inch, pixel by pixel and it confirms your justification of Chinese intruders into Bhutan especially along Haa-Paro northern areas. The border is porous and our army helpless and our countrymen and resources exploited and threatened.

    Your suggestion to Visit Beijing is very myc strategic and diplomatic. Visiting Beijing would not only help strengthen the previous agreements (which they have breached)but also help come out with new strategies from their part. I support the “Visit Beijing” strategy and the DPT government shouldnt look it as something that would hamper/deter our relationship with India or for that matter with China. China is becoming ever more powerful and more open. Visiting them would only mean embracing friendship. I think the politicians should acknowledge this.

    What Bhutan did down the years was different, We are in a different situation now we should not let our people and natural resources in the be exploited.

    Good evening

    Thank you

  8. I really could not understand why border talks with the China is taking so much of time despite our dedicated secretary Dasho Pema wangchuk who only looks after the inteernational boundaries. Ifact he should be responsibleto quesries made by the MPs. since 1990s the present minister were directly or indirectly involve in the process of dialogues. So they should be knowing the directions to lead. Still the ministers say their party is only 3 years meaning they do not want to take the blame for not able to solve the problem.

  9. Thank you OL for informing us.
    I have heard of this issue long time ago and then it was silent for few years (at-least for me), I did not hear for couple of years. I though this talk was done and over, because we saw our map has been changed.
    As a fellow citizen of Bhutan I am really concerned about the future of our country.

  10. given the geo-political position of bhutan, the complexity of resolving our northern border & the time it is taking, your idea of visiting beijing is a sound one..this will be a cbm..i believe the chinese want closer ties with fact, they wanted more than the agreement on maintaining peace & tranquility..
    related to the northern border issue is the mysterious disappearance & even reference to mt kulagangri..this was once labelled as bhutan’s highest mountain..but now, not a word about it..people should be informed why & how this has come to be..

  11. TORISE dragon says

    visiting will not resolve the situations but the huge question is….WHAT ARE THE RULING GOVERNMENTS (PM,LYONPOS,MP & NC) doing so far we know some portion of our land is cut off from our original map….WHY DO THAT HAPPENED? are the leaders talking and doing something apart from discussing other things in the country.i dont mean stop discussing about internal matters but its high time the voted leaders react and do something for the country,especially bhutan-china border.

  12. kelpazangla,

    How can you be so presumptuous to state that our northern border talks with China depend on India. You must realize, that, apart from only us worrying about the encroachment by the Chinese into our territory, India themselves would be even more concerned by this alarming trend.

    Hence, the sooner we solve the northern border issues with China, the better it would be for both Bhutan and India.

  13. Kelpazangla says

    Off-tracking this issue, What is your stand/view, OL, on the 3rd Party of your ex-comrate Dr. Tandin Dorji and his “Social Democratic Party (SDP)”? Do see it an additional challenge to PDP?

  14. Kelpazangla says

    Dear guardian, undertake a bit of research and I promise you will like to pay me for my extreme presumption.

  15. bena-bhutto says

    i too agree wit our opposition minister…PM/MP visiting all the countries except China which is our neighbour hinders threat may be illegally but is a threat.. I wud suggest that our politicians to hold bilateral talks with Chinese government in their homeland discussing northern frontiers n related issue sud be held in China rather than in India… correct me if m wrong…

  16. Motor Mouth says

    why do our parliamentarians always glorify the process. no need to describe the process by alluding to its history and wasting precious minutes of the parliament.

    instead, focus on what is to be done and how it is to be executed.

    sino-bhutan border talks are of paramount importance. our land and pride is being threatened at our northern doorsteps and the best we can do is organize talks between officials only.

    i think the Foreign Minister and Lyonchen along with the Surveyor General of the Land Commission should take this seriously and give the people some concrete answers instead of the usual prosody and verbose.

  17. Dear Kelpazangmo,

    As long as you don’t convince us and expect all of us to know what information only you are privy, then I have every right to believe that you are being presumptuous. There is absolutely no need to do any research, just answer this simple question, why would the Indian government not be worried if the chinese are encroaching into our territory.

  18. i once visited Lingzhi, and throughout the way, right from Paro, i heard stories of Chinese invading in many ways. i say invading because, taking away our natural resources and using our space for their purpose and instilling fear in our people is as good as invading.
    however i don’t understand why our people cross the borders with lots of risk to do business which is no business at all.
    Yeshey Dorji has a clear picture story on this on his blog.

  19. What an important topic to discuss. I am in agreement that our government should visit China on a friendly visit. We need not make it a visit for border issue. Once you are there, the issue is bound to come up and the talks can happen. It will be a stepping stone of success. It can be a government delegation with equal numbers of private sector representatives. Set the tone and see what happens. I can only envisage good things coming out of such a plan.

    Do it now before your government term ends. make a gift to the people of Bhutan to make the connection and then we will vote for you again to be the government.

  20. Dear commentators,
    If you keep knocking at the door repeatedly one day it will open.
    My opinion, time’s ripe. Govt should go and inform china about breaching four point agreement and then commit them to go back where they should be as per the agreement. The excuse of erecting tents initially and then progressing it to permanent structures are nothing but to encroach and take away the land. Its like give an inch and they take not a feet but kilometers.
    If the practice of erecting tents at this juncture is let to happen then, i fear, the chinese will come and pitch it up at phajoding top later.
    So act now and finish it. Fire is best extinguished when small.

  21. Dear OL,

    Our country is going through a transition phase. A phase every country in world is watching and more so our immediate neighbor. Our PM visiting them can only happen if and when the Chinese will give it a call. Chinese, (Communist Party of China) [P.S. China is not governed by any government but a Party; Chinese Defense forces also take an oath of loyalty to the Party] know it very well that ‘Time is Not Yet Ripe’ for them to strike a deal with us, the prolonged delay in Boundary settlement could be a result of this Chinese strategy.

    Developing relations with China is certainly important and crucial for us but same cannot be initiated in haste. The issue needs to be deliberated and maybe even discussed amongst People’s Representatives before making any formal proposals to the Chinese government. Our nation (as democracy) is too young to play the big game with big nation and more so with a nation having a history which speaks OTHERWISE. A hasty decision at this stage could land us loosing our culture and identity. A unplanned initiative from our government at this stage could flush fill our entire market with Chinese business players.

    At the same time, I am sure our government must be maintaining some sort of relations with the Chinese at certain level. We would like to know more about these interactions and as to how and in what direction are we heading when it concerns China.

    Just a thought…

  22. Well, guys I’m neither for south visit nor the north visit. Both will mean certain element of politics and politics with neither is not palatable for us at this point in time for reasons we understand well. China will talk to us only when convenient to them and we should not rush things in the way our people are talking about and the way they tend to think. This thinking has to be analyzed with due caution. Some people raise this border issue to display their zeal and zest towards their love, affection and loyalty to the nation and unarguably so. Or is it just a show? Be that as it may, but my simple idea for the way forward would be:
    * Let our nomads or bjobs do the ground work with their counterparts at their own local and traditional levels. Play archery or yam, invite them for food and local festivals, losar celebrations and so on. Exchange small gifts like liquor and anything Bhutanese. They will appreciate and return the favor and friendship.
    * keep the army of both sides away or even invite them over for fun.
    * Our people can also encroach for grazing animals and this will naturally involve interaction and not confrontation.
    * Wait and watch this natural process and see what happens and probably nothing will happen except improve people-to-people relations at the grass root and ordinary daily level. We garner support from ground level at an ancient traditional level that has been going on monitored or unmonitored, which we all know. Those who know should and must learn and know before we cast our feelings of nationalism and debate over this media. That, of course is not to say, I’m against any move towards a solution to the problems. As somebody has said, we must realize and appreciate our weaknesses and the naturalness of everything Bhutanese. I don’t think we are in a hurry to go anywhere anytime soon! So folks, let’s not rush into things without proper and professional analysis. Talking up or down should and must be left to the political speed, convenience and the will of the strong. Let’s nibble at the ground level daily, diligently, earnestly, humbly and with honest friendship.

  23. Dear OL,

    I am giving below a news article from newspaper. I thought we all should read it before we talk about developing any kind of relations with china.

    BEIJING: Describing the situation in Tibet as “grave”, China has ordered authorities there to prepare themselves for “a war against secessionist sabotage” by the Dalai Lama amid reports that security forces shot dead two Tibetans protesters.

    Officials in the Tibet Autonomous Region have been ordered to recognise the “grave situation” in maintaining stability and to ready themselves for “a war against secessionist sabotage”, Chen Quanguo, regional Communist Party chief of Tibet told official Tibet Daily.

    The orders come ahead of the February 22 Tibetan New Year and this year’s Chinese Communist Party Congress to elect new leaders.

    The Congress would elect new leaders replacing the President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao who are set to retire later this year.

    Chen and other top officials called for extra vigilance to foil any attempts by the Buddhist Monks and supporters of the Dalai Lama pointing out that the Tibetan spiritual leader has a spoken of a “decisive battle” to be launched ahead of this year’s Communist Party Congress, likely to be held in November this year.

    Meanwhile, US based broadcaster Radio Free Asia today said that two Tibetan brothers, who have been on the run after protesting against Chinese rule have been shot dead.

    Yeshe Rigsal, a 40-year monk, and his 38-year-old brother, Yeshe Samdrub, had been pursued by the authorities after they participated in January 23 protests against Chinese rule.

    The two brothers had been on the run for more than two weeks, and had been hiding in the hills in a nomad region when they were surrounded and fired upon.

    The fight against the Dalai Lama clique is a “long-term, complicated and sometimes even acute” one, Chen was quoted as saying.

    Xu Zhitao, an official with the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party Central Committee, told state-run Global Times that “secessionists led by the Dalai Lama appeared more determined to plot conspiracies this year.”

    The Dalai Lama clique had claimed that they might carry out some schemes to wreck the upcoming Tibetan New Year, which falls on February 22 this year, Xu said.

    This year the region saw self immolations by Buddhist Monks calling for the return of Darla Lama from his self exile in Dharmashala. So far 17 monks and nuns have attempted suicides.

    So far 17 monks and nuns have attempted suicides. Many of these attempts were confined to the Sichuan province, neighbouring Tibet and the Tibetan officials fear that the restive monks would attempt some thing big during the New Year celebrations in Lhasa, the provincial capital.

    Global Times which carried the Tibet story today with banner headlines ‘Tibet officials prepare for war’ also mentioned discussions on Tibet during External Affairs Minister S M Krishna’s just concluded visit here to inaugurate the new Indian Embassy building.

    “Separately, during a meeting with Krishna in Beijing on Wednesday, Zhou Yongkang, a senior leader of the party stated that the question concerns China’s national interests and that the Chinese government will crack down on secessionists and safeguard its territorial integrity,” the Times said.

    “Krishna reiterated that India recognises Tibet as a part of China and will not tolerate “anti-China activities” on Indian territory”, it quoted a report by state-run Xinhua which also carried an interview with him.

    Chinese foreign ministry also carried a statement Zhou appreciating India’s stand.

    On beefing up the local administration the daily also carried a stern warning that those officials in Tibet who were found to be lax will be punished.

    “For those irresponsible officials who walk away from their duties, fail to implement policies or are found guilty of dereliction of duty in maintaining stability, they shall be immediately removed from their posts, pending punishment, regardless of how great the contributions they made in the past or what kind of position they held,” Chen said.

    Chen asked local officials to “improve the precautionary and emergency management mechanism,” and ensure the government’s ability to immediately and resolutely handle any emergency.

    “We should make every effort to win the tough battle to maintain stability, and seize the initiative in our fight against separatism,” Chen said.

    Xiong Kunxin, a professor with the Minzu University of China, said the further tightening could be related to a string of recent self-immolations in Tibetan areas of the provinces of Sichuan and Qinghai bordering Tibet.

    “There are five regions that are inhabited by Tibetan people in China. Turbulence in one area can affect others,” said Xiong, referring to Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces where Tibetan communities are located as well as Tibet itself.

    An official surnamed Gou with the publicity department of Ganzi in Sichuan told the Global Times that cases of violence were isolated and that the majority of Tibetan people in the prefecture yearn for stability.

    “Such tragic incidents in Sichuan’s Tibetan area have to do with geographic and historical factors, which made Tibetan people there more aggressive,” Xiong said.

    “Meanwhile, less strict management in this area also led to this problem,” he said.

    The Ganzi Daily earlier quoted Liu Daoping, Party chief of Ganzi, as saying that the Dalai Lama clique had claimed to wage “a decisive battle,” posing great challenges to the stability-maintaining tasks.

    Xiong said such violence and self-immolation cases have violated the creeds of Tibetan Buddhism.

  24. Dear Sir, As someone who comes from China, I’d like to say a few things. Firstly allow me to say thank you for giving me the privilege to tour your beautiful country and secondly, it was fantastic to be able to observe and learn from your country and your people. I understand the complexity of the Bhutan-China-India relationship and wish to just say a few things. I cannot help but feel upset when some bhutanese have a hostile view towards my country. The view that us Chinese have with Bhutan is very much positive- GNH, oasis, Shangri-La, spiritual etc. That sort of respect is what we want to continue. We do thank Bhutan for supporting us in the One China Policy and we do understand the border issue hence why the talks. We understand that our presence can be somewhat intimidating but after talks with academics, professors and politicians, the overall view is for us to reach out and make friends- the more the better and only by establishing contacts can we begin to understand one another. I do welcome you to visit China and please don’t just go to Beijing. I welcome you to travel to a range of cities so that you understand the problems that we face and the achievements that we’ve made. It would be great to see more exchanges between the two countries since that is possible even without diplomatic relationships ( who cares, it’s hyped up any). and there are certainly things that we can learn from one another. Id very much would like Bhutan to teach and help us with environmental protection and of course preservation of culture which is fast disappearing. I look forward to seeing you in China someday and hopefully it’s not just a one time thing but continuous. Thank you.

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