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.