- India committed its allocation of Rs. 45 Billion for Bhutan for the 11th Five Year Plan and Rs. 5 Billion for boosting the economic stimulus plan for Bhutan.
- The meeting laid the foundation stone for a 600 MW Kholongchu Hydro-electric project which is a joint venture between India and Bhutan.
- Bhutan assured India that it will ensure its territory would not be used for any anti-Indian activities.
- Mr. Modi also reiterated India’s commitment towards Bhutan’s 11th Five Year Plan and its continued focus on empowering Bhutan’s education and IT sectors.
- India conveyed its decision to lift bans on or quantitative restrictions of Bhutanese exports of items such as milk powder, wheat, edible oil, pulses and non-basmati rice. It voiced its decision to withdraw its influence over Bhutanese decision making in its trade and foreign policies matters.
- India announced the doubling of the amount of the Nehru-Wangchuk scholarship to Rs. 20 million per year.
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Read: Bharat to Bhutan is new beginning
The relations between India and Bhutan have historically been cordial. Bhutan has always been keen to maintain cordial relations with India due its own inherent geographical and economic disadvantages. Moreover, the bilateral ties between India and Bhutan have also ensured a good wall of defense in the Himalayan region against the Chinese influence from the neighborhood.
India has thus far enjoyed a good influence over Bhutan's foreign policy, defense and commerce matters. The basic tenet that has guided the bilateral ties between the two countries has been the “Treaty of Friendship” that was signed in 1949. The treaty speaks of peace between the two countries and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. However, under the treaty, Bhutan had agreed to be guided by India in matters of its foreign policy. The treaty also marked the strengthening of free trade among these two countries.
China, on the other hand, has apparently been making efforts to exert diplomatic influence over Bhutan, something that does not really amuse India. India’s major concern is the Chumbi valley, which is a tri junction of China, India, and Bhutan. It is distinctly near to the Siliguri corridor, which is India’s only gateway to its northeastern part. It is a matter of supreme concern for India as any Chinese descend into this area will leave the entire north-eastern himalayan region totally inaccessible for India.
Hence, in an effort to further strengthen the bilateral ties with Bhutan, India’s newly elected Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi made a two-day visit to Bhutan to meet Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk and Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, earlier this month. Through this visit, Mr. Modi expressed India’s willingness to further scale up bilateral ties with Bhutan, stating that a “strong” and “prosperous” India can better aid the neighboring smaller nations. Following were the key highlights of his visit:
Through this visit, India has re-iterated its stance over the view that despite its growing emergence in the global arena, it still doesn’t undermine the significance of its immediate neighborhood. Also, it has very subtly ensured that Bhutan stays away from the diplomatic influence of China which could be of eminent concern for India north-eastern territorial security. It is a matter of no surprise that this visit has been aptly referred as a new beginning towards B2B, Bharat to Bhutan.