Playing down its unsuccessful bid to establish diplomatic ties with Bhutan, China on Monday said it is glad to see New Delhi and Thimphu develop their relations further during the just-concluded visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“With regard to China’s relations with Bhutan, we have not established diplomatic relations but our two countries maintain friendly exchanges and visits,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying told a media briefing here on Monday answering a question on Modi’s visit to Thimphu.
“We respect the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bhutan and we are willing to further develop good neighbourly relations with Bhutan based on the five principles of peaceful coexistence,” she said.
Strategically placed between India and Tibet, Bhutan has remained aloof since 1951 after China took firm control of Tibet, which borders with Bhutan.
Relations between Beijing and Thimphu remained traditionally strained following a border dispute.
However in a surprise move in 2012, the then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and his Bhutanese counterpart, Jigmi Y Thinley met on the sidelines of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development at Rio De Janeiro.
During the meeting, the two leaders expressed their willingness to establish diplomatic relations and discussed measures to speed up efforts to resolve the border dispute and to step up bilateral ties.
But Bhutan did not pursue the move apparently to avoid creating any misunderstanding in its ties with India.
China and Bhutan however continue their exchanges with visits by high level diplomats besides a dialogue to resolve the border dispute.
On Modi’s visit to Thimphu which was his first foreign visit after taking over as Prime Minister, Hua said, “We are paying attention to the Indian prime minister’s visit. We are glad to see our neighbours develop friendly ties with each other”.
Asked how China viewed Modi’s visit which was portrayed by some reports as an attempt to contain China’s influence, Hua said that China attached great importance to its relationship with India.
The relations in recent years have witnessed healthy and stable development of the strategic partnership of cooperation between the two countries.
Since the inauguration of the new Indian government, Premier Li had a telephone conversation with Modi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi “made a successful visit” to India as a special envoy of President Xi Jinping, she said.
“Generally speaking we are full of confidence in the further development of China-India relations in the future,” she said.
China has full expectation and confidence in promoting ties with India, she said.