In a first such trip of a high-level Indian delegation to Bhutan post the Doklam standoff, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval held a secret meeting with officials of the neighbouring country regarding the increasing flexing of China’s military muscle at the eastern border.
Security and Chinese infrastructure building on the Doklam plateau was also discussed during the meeting held on February 6 and 7, The Indian Express reported.
The meeting comes after media reports cited satellite images as showing construction of a Chinese military complex near the Doklam area.
The visit was not made public even though sources said “positive” outcomes emerged from the meeting. The Bhutan officials made clear their demand for peace in the Doklam tri-junction and apprised the Indians about the status of boundary talks between Thimpu and Beijing. China and Bhutan are engaged in talks over the resolution of the dispute in the area.
The visit came three days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with his Bhutanese counterpart Tshering Tobgay on sidelines of Advantage Assam – Global Investors Summit 2018, where the two leaders discussed efforts to enhance connectivity in the north-east region.
The 73-day standoff at Doklam, where Chinese military attempted to build a road close to the Chicken’s Neck corridor, had sparked a round of tensions at the border. It finally ended on August 28 last year.
Army Chief Rawat had stoked a fresh round of spat with China last year after he called Doklam a disputed territory. However, Chinese military had asserted that it was very much part of China.
Bhutan has no diplomatic ties with China. As a close friend and neighbour, Bhutan enjoys diplomatic and military support from India. The sources said several other key officials of the Army and the Ministry of External Affairs were also a part of the visit.
Asked about the foreign secretary’s visit, a diplomatic source called it “routine”. This was Rawat’s second visit to Bhutan in the last nine months.