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Exceptional and Cherished Ties


Introduction.

Bhutan has historically shared deep religious-cultural links with India. Guru Padmasambhava, a Buddhist saint who went to Bhutan from India, played an influential role in spreading Buddhism and cementing traditional ties between people in both nations. The year 2018 marked the golden jubilee celebrations between India-Bhutan relationship. Diplomatic relations between India and Bhutan was established in the year 1968 with appointment of special office of India in Thimphu. To reassure our great historical and strategic relationship the newly elected Prime Minister of Bhutan Lotay Tshering undertook his maiden foreign to India since assuming his office in November. To celebrate the golden jubilee the two countries launched a special logo to celebrate their strong and enduring partnership.  

Bhutan is a strategic partner to India because of its geographic location. It is landlocked country by two powerful countries i.e. China in the north and India in the south. Bhutan has helped India in flushing out militants in the North-East such as the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and other Northeastern militant groups camping in its southern jungles of Bhutan by a military operation in 2003, this security cooperation by the Himalayan Kingdom played a significant role in maintaining internal stability in the North-East region.

During the recent Doklam standoff between India and China, Bhutan had shown full displeasure to China’s infringement by construction activities on her border. It has also rejected China’s Invite to be a part of its ambitious project One-Belt-One-Road project.

Excellency Prime Minister Lotay Tashering Visit

His Excellency Prime Minister Lotay Tashering accompanied by senior Bhutanese delegation undertook 3-day visit to India between December 27 to December 30 to further firm-up India-Bhutan relations. His Excellency was given a ceremonial Welcome at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan in the presence of Indian PM and other senior Ministries and Dignitaries.  After which series of Bilateral talks were held to further strengthen the relationship.

India has been developmental partner of Bhutan since we started having formal diplomatic relationship. India over the years have contributed and supported in various developmental and Infrastructural projects in Bhutan. In this visit India has pledged to support in the 12th Five Year plan of Bhutan which is said to be the last mile for its UN ascribed status of a middle-income Country. 12th five-year plan of Bhutan is budgeted around INR 310 Billion of which India has agreed to give 45 Billion towards the development, and further a Trade Support Facility of worth 400 crore was also announced which showed the commitment of India to help Bhutan in its development and showing a strong relationship.

The New five-year plan of Bhutan begins this year and ends in 2022 which focuses on hydropower projects, private sector participation and diversification of revenue. with these opportunities, Indian Prime Minister assured Bhutanese counterpart on completing the work on 720 Mw Mangdecchu hydropower plant which is set to bridge the economic linkages with the Himalayan nation. Hydropower has been an important source of revenue for Bhutan, however, Bhutanese PM Lotay Tashering is said to have contemplating to diversify the Bhutan’s economy by further inviting Private Sector Industries to invest in Bhutan in the areas of tourism, adventure sports, small scale industries, education and food Industries. India can play a significant role in Bhutanese private sector by helping their industries to build capacities in both manufacturing and service sectors. Bhutan has requested India to exempt GST for select goods from Bhutan selling in India, to which Indian PM has agreed to help the Traders affected with new taxation regulations.

Border Management

India-Bhutan Share a 700 km long border which is guarded by Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) on Indian side and Bhutan Border police on the Bhutan Side. Majority of the border passes through dens forest regions. India-Bhutan Group border Management and Security has been established to have easy joint monitoring and easy movement of people between the two countries.

Conclusion.

India-Bhutan share a very close, strategic and time-tested relationship. India’s assistance to Bhutan have seen a very significant development which further assures the bonding we share. Bhutan is Significant for two of India’s important policy i.e. India’s Neighborhood first and India’s Act East policy both of which are very crucial in maintaining the regional power and have a strong economic growth.

With these cooperation and trust, India can help Bhutan become more economically independent, militarily strong and have democratic values. A partnership based on this foundation will ensure future success of Bhutan and secure the long-standing relations shared between the two countries.

References

1. "Doklam Fresh on Mind, India Promises Rs 4,500 Crore to Bhutan - Times of India." The Times of India. December 28, 2018. Accessed December 29, 2018. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/doklam-fresh-on-mind-india-promises-rs-4500-crore-to-bhutan/articleshow/67294074.cms.

2. "India to Host Newly Elected Bhutan PM." The Hindu. December 24, 2018. Accessed December 29, 2018. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/india-to-host-newly-elected-bhutan-pm/article25823137.ece.

3. Ministry of External Affairs. Accessed December 29, 2018. http://www.mea.gov.in/Portal/ForeignRelation/Bhutan_September_2017_en.pdf.

4. "MEA | What's New." Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. Accessed December 29, 2018. https://www.mea.gov.in/whats-new.htm.

5. Press statements by PM Modi and Bhutanese PM Tshering

6. "India-Bhutan Relations: Past, Present and Future." South Asia Program at Hudson Institute. Accessed December 29, 2018. http://www.southasiaathudson.org/blog/2018/3/6/india-bhutan-relations-past-present-and-future.

7. Picture Source: PIB India.

 

Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of CLAWS or of the Government of India

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Raghunandan M C
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