China and Bhutan held the 25th round of border talks in Beijing on 23-24 October, 2023, and signed a “cooperation agreement” on the delimitation and demarcation of the boundary between the two countries. A Xinhua joint statement issued in Beijing, where the talks were held, said: “The conclusion of boundary negotiations and the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Bhutan fully serve the long-term and fundamental interests of the country and nation of Bhutan.” The fact that Bhutanese Foreign Minister Lyonpo Tandi Dorji travelled to Beijing for the talks, where he was feted by foreign minister Wang Yi and vice president Han Zheng, are being viewed as moves indicating both sides want a quick border settlement. Unlike in the past, Bhutan’s urgency to quickly normalise relations with China is drawing attention in New Delhi and internationally. While there is no substantive reaction or response to the 25th round of Beijing-Thimphu talks so far, “significant,” “major diplomatic breakthrough,” and “alarm bells ringing” are some reactions coming from media analysts and foreign affairs experts in India, China, and in the global press. The ICS panel discussion aims to assess and critically examine the latest attempt by China and Bhutan to step up border negotiations and “soon” realize a deal to address the border settlement problem.
About the Speaker
Manoj Joshi is a Distinguished Fellow at the ORF. He was a member of the Task Force on National Security chaired by Mr. Naresh Chandra to propose reforms in the security apparatus of the country. He has held various posts such as the political editor of The Times of India, Editor (Views) Hindustan Times, Defence Editor of India Today, National Affairs Editor of Mail Today, the Washington Correspondent of The Financial Express, and a Special Correspondent of The Hindu in his three decades long career as a journalist. He has also been a member of the National Security Council’s Advisory Board. His recent work is Understanding India-China Border: The Enduring Threat of War in the High Himalayas (2022) and Bhutan-China: Settling Border Issues.
Amb. P. Stobdan is a student of Asian Affairs. In his professional career spanning over 40 years, he held various assignments both in the government and outside. He is currently a Distinguished Fellow at the Delhi Policy Group (DPG) New Delhi, and President, Ladakh International Centre, Leh.
Amit Ranjan is Research Fellow at the Institute South Asian Studies (ISAS), National University of Singapore. His research interests include water disputes, South Asian politics (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh), India’s regional policy, and India’s internal security. His papers, review essays, and book reviews have been widely published in journals, including Asian Affairs, India Quarterly, South Asia Research, and Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs. He has also contributed commentaries, opinion editorials, and reviews in newspapers and websites. Prior to joining ISAS, Dr. Ranjan worked as a Research Fellow at the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi. He completed his Doctoral studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Medha Bisht is an Associate Professor in the Department of International Relations at the South Asian University (SAU), New Delhi. Her research interests include Philosophy and Theory of International Relations, Water Governance and Diplomacy at International, Transboundary and Local level, Asian Diplomatic Thought, and Qualitative methods. Her book, Kautilya’s Arthashastra: Philosophy of Strategy has been published by Routledge (London and New York 2020). Before joining SAU, she was an Associate Fellow at MP-IDSA. Dr. Bisht has written extensively on Bhutan, including “Paradigms in India-Bhutan Relations and Pathways for Cooperation” in Bhatnagar and Passi (eds); Neighbourhood First: Navigating Ties Under Modi, (2016); “Bhutan and Climate Change: Identifying Strategic Implications,” Contemporary South Asia, 2013 Vol. 21; “Assessing Bhutan Elections: Some Facts, Some Assumptions,” Economic and Political Weekly, XLVIII No. 39, 2013.
About the Chair & Moderator
Hemant Adlakha is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Chinese and South East Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is also the Vice-Chairperson and an Honorary Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies. His areas of research include political discourse in the PRC and modern Chinese Literature and Culture.
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