By S K Shahi
Bhutan was the first foreign country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose to visit on 15-16 June 2014 after being sworn-in as Prime Minister . During his visit he met His Majesty The King of Bhutan, His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo and the Prime Minister of Bhutan. PM addressed a Joint Session of the National Assembly and National Council of Bhutan and met the Leader of the Opposition. He also inaugurated Supreme Court building that was built with Indian funding. Bhutan being a buffer state between India and China, has strategic consequence for India’s neighborhood policy. China’s increasing influence and efforts to improve its connectivity and enhance trade with South Asian countries is a matter of concern for India. Our cultural linkages make us natural friends and partners. While Bhutan, has taken care of India’s security interest, India has been proactive in ensuring Bhutan’s developmental and economic needs.
PM’s first foreign visit to Bhutan is seen as right step towards strengthening bilateral relation with immediate neighbor and closest ally in South Asia. Both countries have committed to achieve the 10,000 MW target in hydropower cooperation. Three power projects are now operational; three others will be commissioned by 2017-18. The Indian PM called for greater economic ties and a more responsive Indian financial assistance to Bhutan. He suggested doubling the scholarships provided to Bhutanese students in India and offered help in setting up a digital library of two million books and periodicals in the Himalayan nation. These will be built with India’s assistance package of Rs 4,500 crore for Bhutan’s five-year plan from 2013 to 2018, which covers a range of areas from infrastructure, IT, health, agriculture, tourism to human resources. Improving cultural exchange by increasing people to people contact especially from Himalayan region between the two countries will further cement the strong bonding between India and Bhutan. Also, India has stepped up economic and trade linkages, including exempting Bhutan from restrictions on export of milk powder, wheat, edible oil, pulses and non-basmati rice.
B2B (Bharat to Bhutan) ties as described by the PM have been natural due to our historical linkages, culture and tradition. PM’s visit to Bhutan has been most successful and will give boost in improving diplomatic relations with our immediate neighbor.With China on mind and accounting for the possibility of anti-India insurgents making use of the neighbor’s territory, India and Bhutan decided to continue with their close “coordination and cooperation” on issues of national interest.Prime Minister`s visit reflects the high priority that the Government of India attaches to its relations with Bhutan and to our South Asian neighborhood.
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