India has exercised long-term comprehensive control and influence on Bhutan, which has restricted the latter from developing foreign relations, said Chinese mouthpiece Global Times, blaming India.
Senior diplomatic officials of China and Bhutan signed a Memorandum of Understanding on a three-step roadmap for expediting the Bhutan-China boundary negotiations during a video conference on Thursday.
Bhutan is the only neighbouring country that has not established diplomatic relations with China.
Bhutan is located in the southern slopes of the Himalayas. With an area of 38,000 sq km and a population of less than 800,000, it is sandwiched between China and India.
“Bhutan doesn’t have diplomatic relations with China, nor has it established diplomatic relations with any other permanent member of the UN Security Council. This is abnormal. It’s because India has exercised long-term comprehensive control and influence on Bhutan, which has restricted it from developing foreign relations,” Global Times said.
“To complete border talks with Bhutan shouldn’t have been so difficult. The problem lies in the country behind Bhutan – India, which has served as a complicated factor,” it said.
“We don’t think New Delhi should express its stance. It’s a matter between two sovereign countries to sign the MoU. If India points its fingers at it, it could only prove to the world that India is eroding the sovereignty of a weak and small country,” the Chinese mouthpiece said.
“India shouldn’t say anything publicly, nor should it continue to exert pressure on Bhutan or dictate what Bhutan should do in its border negotiations with China. A demarcation line between China and Bhutan will delimit the two countries’ territories. If India believes how the demarcation is settled will influence India’s national interest, it will prove that India has improperly extended its national interests into the territory of Bhutan and wants to turn Bhutan into an outpost of India’s China policy. These are further violations of the norms of international relations,” Global Times said in an editorial.
“India is the biggest and strongest power in South Asia. But it’s time to end its old-fashioned control over Bhutan. India should also curb its desire to exert abnormal influence on countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka. South Asian countries are willing to develop relations with China and they have the right to do so.
“India should transcend narrow-minded geopolitical thinking when looking at these countries’ moves of strengthening economic and other links with China, and should not fantasize that China is encircling India. There are not so many encirclements in today’s world. China has neither a military alliance nor special cooperation that targets India with any of those countries. India wants to expand its influence. To this end, it needs to first be open-minded and not be oversensitive,” it said.
Global Times said it seems that China and Bhutan will reach a border agreement sooner or later and will eventually move toward the establishment of diplomatic relations.
“This is progress that the two neighboring countries are supposed to make. If it stalls, people will wonder whether India again put pressure on Bhutan and infringed on its sovereignty,” it added.