- Significance of this visit
- Indo-Bhutan relations
- What importance do these celebrations hold?
- Relations in the changing scenario
- About Hydropower cooperation
- Does Bhutan stand firmly with India?
- Role of Bhutan in sub regional cooperation
- Security concerns between the two countries
- Analysing the Chinese factor
- Future of this relations
India Bhutan Relations
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GS (M) Paper-2: “India and its neighbourhood- relations.”
- The King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck of Bhutan recently paid a four days visit to India.
Significance of this visit:
- It gains its importance as it is planned to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Establishment of India-Bhutan diplomatic relation in 2018.
- Moreover, it is significant as it was the first visit since India-China stand-off on Doklam plateau in the Himalayan Kingdom.
- The visit was an important step towards boosting bilateral ties.
- Bhutan has been India’s one of the best friends and both the countries have worked together and strengthened the relations with growing time.
- There are various issues between the countries like boundary, economic partnership, hydroelectricity, and people to people contact where both the countries have fared well.
- The exchange of visits and contacts at the highest level and personal friendship from Nehru to Modi with Kings of Bhutan and political leadership has been very strong.
- The relations are not confined to strategic, cultural and economic issues as it is beyond those factors.
- Both the countries signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in 1949 which was further revised in 2007 but, the diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in 1968.
- Both the countries have been working together on environment and developmental issues, and meeting energy requirements.
- In fact India is also supporting Bhutan on Chiphen Rigpel (Total Solution) Project creating the knowledge society in Bhutan.
- It promotes Information Communication and Technology (ICT), opens schools and colleges to enable the capacity building.
- While India is supporting it in all the aspects from development to military, Bhutan is also equally involved, for instance flushing all the ULFA militants on the issue of insurgency in North East India.
- They supported the idea of regional counter insurgency mechanism.
- Different from other bilateral relationships both the countries look towards each other in long-term perspective.
- Hence there is a trust between the two countries which reflects largely in the approach.
- Confining to Doklam like issue would be unfair with the relation of these two countries as this relationship is far beyond such narrow interests.
- It is an all-embracing relationship having highest priority in the neighbourhood along with comprehensive partnership.
What importance do these celebrations hold?
- The close relations between the two countries have succeeded the test of time since 1949.
- Bhutan is having very few embassies in Thimpu and India is most important amongst them.
- This Golden Jubilee will show how the relationship have grown and matured.
- The renewal of the treaty in 2007 was to bring it to contemporary times that assure the democracy there.
- The 1st king initiated the democracy in Bhutan as a result of which there are parliamentary elections now in Bhutan.
- India built the democratic institutions in Bhutan like National Assembly of Bhutan and the Supreme Court.
Relations in the changing scenario:
- Present Bhutan is a modern nation different from past that sees issues like climate change as an important issue and environment guarded carefully.
- India is seen by Bhutan as a development and leading trade partner and India has stand the commitment till date.
About Hydropower cooperation:
- Hydro-electric projects are prime feature on Indo-Bhutan relations though mostly intended to provide clean electricity in India.
- There are about 60000 Indians living in Bhutan employed mostly in hydropower industry.
- There are 3 projects of totalling 14 to 1600 MW and 4 more projects are under pipeline and the idea is to reach at least 4000 MW energy in next 10 years.
- India unlike other countries in the neighbourhood is not in Bhutan for exploiting resources.
- In these projects there is an understanding that first Bhutan meets its domestic requirements and then the surplus will be supplied to India.
- Technical support is provided by India that gives the employment opportunities for Indians.
- There is a 2006 agreement on hydropower cooperation between the two countries and hydropower exports provides more than 40% of Bhutan’s domestic revenue and 25% of GDP.
- Being the mountainous country the water flow vary according to season which makes instable power supply and the ability of grid to cope with it which India is also working closely on it.
- This makes hydropower cooperation an important link between two countries.
Does Bhutan stand firmly with India?
- India stands towards Bhutan is in line with neighbourhood first policy and Bhutan is one of those countries that stands shoulder to shoulder with India on several counts.
- It is the prime example of successful neighbourhood cooperation that take any nation to heights.
- Its exports to India is 90% from total exports that makes India a largest trading partner.
Role of Bhutan in sub regional cooperation:
- There is a BBIN Connectivity Project, a motor vehicle agreement between Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal which is mooted in 2014.
- It was actually a SARCC Agreement which was all-ready under which the bilateral motor vehicles agreement was to be done.
- Because of Pakistan’s obstinacy it was blocked but India decided that the likeminded with regards to this idea should go ahead.
- This resulted in BBIN in 2015 with ambitious agenda and clear timeline.
- Rest of the countries of BBIN have move forward but Bhutan for its own domestic reasons, their environmental concern and mountainous nature, need regulated and calibrated connectivity.
- So Bhutan has to be given its due in this process.
Security concerns between the two countries:
- Both the countries stand together on security and defence issues which was also said during this visit.
- There is a need to strengthen the security and military ties between the two as there are Chinese agendas that does affect India.
- India has been a security provider to Bhutan and security and defence partnership between the two is not based on any agenda instead it has mutual trust and convergence of interests bringing them together.
- Pursuing Bhutan should be seen keeping its national interests in mind.
- But is should be kept in mind that China has been pressurising Bhutan on several counts on boundary issues, transfer of boundaries for Chinese interest.
- The revised treaty of friendship in 2007 also gives the importance to the security and defence cooperation between India and Bhutan.
- While dealing with the insurgents, Bhutan has been setting up the memorial to demonstrate that they are committed to India.
- India is reciprocally committed to ensure Bhutan’s territorial sovereignty and integrity to be respected which it showed during Doklam standoff.
Analysing the Chinese factor:
- China has been pursuing its interests that affects India’s relations with other countries including Bhutan.
- China has been strengthen or at least establish some sort of diplomatic relations with Bhutan that has not happened all these years.
- The relation with China should be left to Bhutan as it is entirely prerogative of the sovereign government as they have their rights.
- Bhutanese leadership is nervous about Chinese factor, but India-Bhutan has also shown its resilience that when it comes to federal sovereignty and integrity and maintaining peace along the border both the countries will stand together, Doklam for instance.
- China if wishes to have peaceful relations with India and Bhutan in context of boundaries then it should not be at the cost of losing their interests.
- All the three countries lie at the tri junction and until the negotiations are completed no country can act unilaterally or use forced measure which Chinese tried to do in Doklam.
- Hence India took this position against China and Bhutan supported it.
Future of this relations:
- There are lots of areas that can be explored and cooperation to be strengthened.
- There are high level groups on security, water management, power, trade, investment, culture etc.
- India looks for the opportunity for Bhutanese students in every kind of institutions and the scholarship for them has also been expanded.
- In cultural aspect there is a Nehru-Wangchuck Cultural Centre in Bhutan and they also have very rich culture where exchanges does have a broad opportunity.
- India being the fast growing economy has to align itself with Bhutanese ideas of sustainable development in all the aspect.
- There are lots of ideas like organic farming, eco-tourism, developing north eastern states of India where both can work together.
- On the eve of the golden jubilee of Indo-Bhutan relation, it has been seen that the relation between the two is generous and special.
- But now the time has come where India has to learn from Bhutan and sustainably grow together with what Bhutanese call as Gross National Happiness (GNH).