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PM Modi to embark on 2-day Bhutan Visit: What it means for the 2 nations?

First Published: 20th March, 2024 16:35 IST

Mr Modi's visit to Bhutan comes just days after his Bhutanese counterpart Tshering Tobgay' s tour of India and the meetings he had with the Indian Prime Minister, the President

I would like to dwell a bit on the India- Bhutan relations in the light of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two day visit to the Himalayan nation, starting tomorrow at the invitation of King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck.

First of all, it is very rare for an Indian Prime Minister to make a foreign visit after the parliamentary elections are announced, as the model code of conduct comes into place. There was a precedent though, when then PM Dr Manmohan Singh paid a visit to Japan to attend the G20 Summit after Lok Sabha polls were announced.

Mr Modi’s visit to Bhutan comes just days after his Bhutanese counterpart Tshering Tobgay’ s tour of India and the meetings he had with the Indian Prime Minister, the President and other leaders. The visit in the middle of the election campaign at home, only indicates the importance New Delhi attaches to Bhutan and the Bhutanese people.

The visit will obviously deepen and consolidate the traditional bond of friendship and cooperation between the two neighbours and comes at a time when Thimphu is trying to settle a tricky border dispute with China. Besides, Bhutan’s economy has taken a huge hit after the COVID pandemic, leading to concerns about employment avenues and means to revive the economy.

During his stay, Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to meet His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and his predecessor, the 4th king, Jigme Singhye Wangchuck, besides holding talks with his Bhutanese counterpart, Tshering Tobgay.

Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay will jointly inaugurate the Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck Mother and Child Hospital in Thimphu and witness the exchange of the several Memoranda of Understanding for greater collaboration and cooperation in the areas of mutual interest.
A Bhutanese foreign ministry statement said Bhutan and India share a unique and enduring partnership based on mutual trust, understanding and goodwill. The visit will provide yet another opportunity for both sides to exchange views on bilateral and regional matters of interest and deliberate on ways to expand and intensify exemplary partnership for the benefit of the people.

Now, India is expected to offer Bhutan Rs 100 billion for its 13th five year plan, up from Rs 45 billion during the last two plans. Besides, New Delhi is also expected to offer Bhutan a Rs 15 billion stimulus package to revive it’s sagging economy. New Delhi has also provided Rs 5000 crore development aid towards Bhutan’s 12th five year plan.

Prime Minister Modi is also quite supportive of King Wangchuck s dream Project, the Gelephu Mindfulness city project that is coming up in Gelephu, right on the border with Assam. India is taking a railway link from Kokrajhar in western Assam to Gelephu besides improving the existing road connectivity.

The high point of the visit will be the presentation of Bhutan’s highest civilian award, the order of the Druk Gyalpo, to prime minister Modi by His Majesty, the king. This award was announced in 2021 itself but will be presented during the visit. This is certainly Bhutan’s way of recognising it’s trust and friendship with India and its 1.4 billion people.

The king’s visit to Assam last year was also a landmark event. King Wangchuck, I hope, realised how much the people of Assam, one of Bhutan’s closest neighbours, LOVE AND ADMIRE HIM. In fact, the Bhutanese monarch is reported to have told Assam chief minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma that we are family, referring to Bhutan and Assam. The Bhutanese government has extended an invitation to the Assam CM to visit the Himalayan nation and once the visit materialises, people to people relations will get a further boost.

As of now, we are closely looking forward to Prime Minister Modi’s two-day visit to Bhutan, beginning tomorrow.

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