China and Bhutan have jointly decided to fast-track the implementation of a “three-step roadmap” aimed at resolving their ongoing boundary dispute. The 13th Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on the China-Bhutan boundary matters occurred in Beijing from August 21 to 24, according to Chinese sources.
This agreement stems from a pact signed in October 2021, which signifies both countries’ commitment to hasten negotiations and reach a resolution regarding their border disagreements.
The backdrop for this agreement was the 2017 standoff between Indian and Chinese military forces at the Doklam tri-junction, triggered by China’s attempts to extend a road into an area claimed by Bhutan. This incident led to concerns of a broader conflict between China and India, with India supporting Bhutan’s territorial claims.
The recent 13th EGM built upon previous discussions, showcasing candid and constructive deliberations, as stated by the Chinese briefing. Both sides have now concurred to take simultaneous and expedited measures to put the three-step roadmap into action. Notably, a joint technical team tasked with demarcating the China-Bhutan boundary has been established, with its inaugural meeting held during the 13th EGM.
Given the strategic implications, India has closely monitored the boundary negotiations between Bhutan and China, particularly in the context of the Doklam tri-junction. The strong ties between India and Bhutan have grown in the aftermath of the 2017 face-off between Indian and Chinese troops in the Doklam region.