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AIR Summary

All India Radio: Spotlight-News Analysis – Bilateral ties between India and Bhutan

The influence of China as well as of India will now play a major role in Bhutan. The Bhutan always inclined towards India for everything. However, over the years, China is trying to increase its footprint in Bhutan.
By IASToppers
August 21, 2019

Contents

  • Why it was in News?
  • Recent visit of Indian PM to Bhutan
  • India- Bhutan Relations
  • Importance of regional Groups in Indo-Bhutan relationships
  • Assisting Bhutanese Youth
  • IT’s Input
    • What is Doklham Incident?
  • Impact of Doklham Incident on Indo-Bhutan relationship
  • What more needs to be done to fulfill the aspirations of Bhutanese people?
  • Suggestions
  • Conclusion

Bilateral ties between India and Bhutan

Why it was in News?

  • Prime Minister recently concluded his two-day state visit to Bhutan during which he held talks with the country’s leaders to further deepen the bilateral ties.
  • The two countries inked 10 MoUs in the fields of space research, aviation, IT, power and education to infuse new energy in their ties.
  • Out of 10 MoUs, 7 are related to Education. This shows that the emphasis is shifting from hydroelectric generation to education and trade.

Recent visit of Indian PM to Bhutan

  • The visit of the Indian prime minister to visit Bhutan soon after his victory in recent elections indicates the importance that Bhutan hold for India in terms of geo strategic issues.
  • Prime Minister inaugurated the Mangdechhu hydroelectric power plant which is one of the major projects under Bhutan’s initiative to generate 10,000 MW hydropower by 2020 with the Indian government’s support.
  • The PM also inaugurated a space ground station in Thimpu (Capital of Bhutan) as part of India’s South Asia Satellite (SAS), which will help Bhutan in communication, weather forecasting and in disaster relief.
  • As per Bhutan, the Doklam issue was not discussed during PM visit. However, India should have discussed the Doklham issue with the PM of Bhutan as well as King because King has a little more influence on foreign and security polices of Bhutan.

India-Bhutan Relations

  • Though Bhutan is a small country, it is very significant for India for various reasons. For Instance, Bhutan is located between China and India, which is of strategic importance to India.
  • All these years, Bhutan has been closed to India, and there was time when India even managed Bhutan’s foreign affairs until Bhutan established diplomatic relations in 1958.
  • India’s relationship with Bhutan extends over wide area of interests in terms of geographically, culturally, historically and through religion as well.
  • The new bilateral Agreement on Trade, Commerce and Transit between India and Bhutan, that came into force from July 2017, provides for free trade regime between the India and Bhutan. It also provides for duty-free transit of Bhutanese merchandise for trade with third countries.
  • Though there are good relations between India and Bhutan, that relations need tremendous nurturing given the changing scenario of Bhutan such as adoption of democracy.
  • Bhutan is second Country, after Singapore, to issue Rupay card, an Indian transaction system.

Importance of regional Groups in Indo-Bhutan relationships

  • The Bhutan is a member country of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Initiative as well as part of the ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’ (BIMSTEC).
  • By including Bhutan in these regional groups, India is providing Bhutan an opportunity to interact with other countries.
  • Not only china, but western countries have also showed interest in Bhutan. However, until now, the Bhutan did not show any interest, as a result, many a times, some Bhutanese feels that they are too isolated.
  • Hence, there is need to involve those people in sub regional groups such as BIMSTEC, who are ready to open up new ties with other countries.

Assisting Bhutanese Youth

  • All of the MoUs recently signed between Bhutan and India are in favor of development of Bhutanese Youth in IT, Space etc.
  • Moreover, both countries also unveiled an e-plaque on the interconnection between India’s National Knowledge Network and Bhutan’s Druk Research and Education Network.
  • In this, Bhutanese universities and experts will be linked with Indian Knowledge Network. Also, if they invent make new discoveries/invention, they can share with the Indian counterpart.

IT’s Input

What is Doklham Incident?

Doklham Incident IASToppers 2020 Bilateral ties between India and Bhutan

  • Doklam is an area comprising a plateau and a valley at the tri-junction between India, Bhutan and China.
  • It is surrounded by the Chumbi Valley of Tibet, Bhutan’s Ha Valley and Sikkim.
  • In 2017, Chinese troops were trying to construct a road in the Doklama area towards the Bhutanese Army camp near the Jampheri Ridge, which according to both Bhutan and India are an integral part of Bhutanese territory.
  • Indian troops, in aid of their Bhutanese counterparts, objected to which results in the stand-off between India and China. Subsequently, after more than 70 days, china stopped its construction.

Impact of Doklham Incident on Indo-Bhutan relationship

  • Doklham is strategically located close to the Siliguri Corridor, which connects mainland India with its north-eastern region. The corridor, also called Chicken’s Neck, is a vulnerable point for India.
  • Hence, presence of china in Doklham region could cut the North-East India with the rest of the India as the Siliguri corridor can easily come in the artillery range of china.
  • Moreover, the Chinese are at a great disadvantage militarily in the Chumbi valley as both Indian and Bhutanese troops are on a higher ground around the Valley. The Doklham can give China a commanding view and an easy access to both the Chumbi Valley and the Siliguri Corridor.
  • One cannot deny the possibility that China will not come again in the Doklham region. Hence, as far as the Bhutan and India is concern, India’s strategic interests in Bhutan is very high.

What more needs to be done to fulfill the aspirations of Bhutanese people?

  1. Any project that starts in Bhutan needs to be completed on time as delaying the projects can increase the project price. Hence, India needs to fulfill all its promises in a time bound manner.
  2. India needs to set a deadline for any schemes/projects.
  3. India needs to re-think on the pricing of electricity which India buy from Bhutan. Electricity is the main source of revenue for Bhutan and if Bhutan feels that they are being cheated, it will be detrimental for India.

Suggestions

  • India had about 4,000 Bhutanese students. However, there should be more number of students. India provides lots of scholarship to Bhutanese students, which needs to be increased.
  • India needs to address the heavy imbalance in trade with Bhutan. India had trade of more than 5000 crores with Bhutan which is heavily favored in India. However, in 2018, Indian PM announced the transitional trade support facility of Rs 400 crore over a period of five years which can be availed by the Bhutanese entrepreneurs and exporters to export more to India.

Conclusion

  • India cannot keep the relations with Bhutan on the level of last century. India needs to consider the aspirations of Bhutanese people in the bilateral relationship with Bhutan.
  • Bhutan is very important for Prime Minister’s ‘Act East’ and ‘Neighborhood First’ polices.
  • The way to go forward in Bhutan is to go for service sectors sector industries, tourism, healthcare, education, IT etc.
  • Also, given the current deforestation scenario of India, India should learn how to make eco-friendly developmental policies from Bhutan.

 

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