The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Last stage of border demarcation with India

National Assembly: 11 June 2005 – On June 10 the National Assembly resolved that, with only 15 map strips left to be finalised along the Bhutan-India border, and most of the work having already been done, this final stage of the demarcation should be completed by 2006.Thimphu Chang and Kawang chimi had submitted that Bhutan, under the leader of His Majesty the King, shared very close friendship and understanding with the Indian leaders.
Although there were no problems at all between the two countries, he said it was important for the people to know the progress that had been made in the demarcation of the Indo-Bhutan border.
The Haa chimi agreed that, given the unprecedented friendship and understanding between the two governments, this was the best time to complete the proper demarcation of the boundary.
Dozin Batoo Tshering
The Wangduephodrang chimi said it was important that the border between Bhutan and India be clearly defined and finalised. He said that the militant problem had shown the importance of a clear border and pointed out that anti-nationals (ngolops) based in India could easily enter into Bhutan and create trouble if the border was not secure.
The Samtse chimi informed the Assembly members that the border issue was frequently discussed during the DYT meetings. After local leaders and the people on the Bhutanese side had reported encroachment from the Indian side, the Samtse dzongkhag officials conducted several meetings and consultations with their Indian counterparts.
The meeting resulted in the erection of boundary pillars and since the problem was solved within ourselves, and because we share such good relations with India, we did not even report it to the National Assembly, said the Samtse chimi. There was no reason for concern once the boundary pillars were erected.
The Trashigang chimi reminded the Assembly about a disagreement on the Sakteng and Tawang borderline which was reported to the 80th National Assembly. He said that survey officials from the two governments had inspected the area so, given the close friendship between the two governments, he hoped that the demarcation of the border between Sakteng and Tawang would be completed soon.
The Secretary for International Boundaries, Dasho Pema Wangchuk, informed the National Assembly that the boundary demarcation between Bhutan and British India had been started as a result of the 1865 Anglo-Bhutan war. The British had demarcated the boundary between Bhutan and the Indian states of West Bengal, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and Sikkim unilaterally at first and later in consultation with Gongzim Ugen Dorji.
After India won Independence in 1947 the two governments had decided that, with most of the boundary pillars either completely destroyed or damaged by floods and other natural causes over time, there was a need to re-survey the border with appropriate strip maps covering both sides of the border.
This task was carried out by Survey of India with a small team of surveyors from Bhutan under the control of the Commissioner of Southern Bhutan. The formal joint demarcation of the southern boundary was then initiated in 1963.
The demarcation of the BhutanIndia boundary, from Richela to Khaktang La, had been completed with strip maps and 358 main pillars, leaving out Sikkim and the eastern tri-junction. To make the boundary legal the boundary strip maps have to be signed at a plenipotentiary by the two governments. Twenty nine out of sixty boundary strip maps were signed.
In August, 2001, there were reports of encroachment because of missing pillars between Phuentsholing and Jaigoan towns. Fortunately the strip map for that segment had been signed by the two governments and the matters could be resolved by relay surveying and maintenance of boundary pillars with a 1.5-metre lane clearance on either side of the central boundary line.
To avoid such problems between two friendly people in the other sectors along the BhutanIndia border, an official level meeting in June, 2003, in New Delhi recommended that relay surveying and maintenance of boundary pillars along the entire border between Bhutan and India, based on the already agreed base maps in 1971 and 1972, should be carried out.
It recommended that the boundary on the Bhutan-Sikkim sector should also be demarcated, based on B J Goulds award, which had already been agreed between the two governments.
The government had approved the recommendation during the 241st Cabinet session held on December 19, 2003 and instructed the International Boundaries Secretariat to carry out and complete the boundary activities as soon as possible.
At an official level meeting between the two governments in Thimphu in February, 2004, 18 out of the remaining 31 strip maps which were ready for joint signatures were signed and the remaining 15 strip maps were now being finalised for signing, said the secretary. Since the official level meeting in June, 2003, in New Delhi, five technical level review meetings had been held by April, 2005, to monitor the progress of the ongoing activities and to plan for further necessary actions/programmes.
Dasho Pema Wangchuk said that the boundary demarcation work with India was going smoothly in an atmosphere of the excellent relations between the two countries and people. Both the countries were making every effort to complete the boundary demarcation by 2007.
His Majesty the King reminded the Assembly that most of the border between India and Bhutan was already demarcated during the reign of His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The fifteen areas left for demarcation – two on the Sikkim side, some in the south and about five areas in the east – had all been discussed with the government of India although the border pillars were not erected.
His Majesty advised that, with most of the work already done, the 15 remaining strips should be completed in 2006 and not 2007. As requested by the chimis His Majesty advised that the maps showing the details of the demarcation should be distributed to the members.
The National Assembly resolved that the border demarcation should be completed by 2006.

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