Video Summary

[RSTV India’s World] PM Modi’s Visit to Bhutan

Bhutan has been the strongest ally of India. However, India needs to expand the basket of engagement with Bhutan.
By IT's Video Summary Team
August 21, 2019


  • Introduction
  • Key Takeaways form the PM visit to Bhutan
  • India- Bhutan relationships
  • IT’s Input
    • What is Doklham Incident?
  • Impact of Doklham Incident on Indo-Bhutan relationship
  • Areas that need special attention
  • Challenges
  • Bhutan’s cooperation with India
  • Suggestions
  • Conclusion

PM Modi’s Visit to Bhutan [RSTV The Big Picture] India’s World 

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  • Recently, Prime Minister of India and Bhutan discussed steps to further expand the bilateral partnership across several sectors.
  • The two countries signed 10 MoUs in the fields of space research, aviation, IT, power and education.
  • The two leaders also unveiled an e-plaque on the interconnection between India’s National Knowledge Network and Bhutan’s Druk Research and Education Network.
  • An additional $100 million will be available to Bhutan under a standby swap arrangement to meet the foreign exchange requirement.

Key Takeaways form the PM visit to Bhutan

  • On his visit to Bhutan, 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 collaboration between Royal Bhutan University and IITs of India shows the government’s effort to reach out to the next generation of Bhutanese and empower them through education by focusing on Human resource development.

India- Bhutan relationships

  • The relations between India and Bhutan has been the best compared to other neighboring nations of India.
  • Apart from the high level meeting between top political leaders of India and Bhutan, the King and Queen of Bhutan have also visited the India. This shows the good relationship between the two countries.
  • When the PM visited Bhutan in 2014, it was seen as insignificant visit as Bhutan and India had already good relations. But in 2017, Doklam standoff took place in which Chinese troops began to extend an existing road in Doklam territory (claimed by Bhutan) and subsequently India stopped that construction.
  • There is strong recognition that both the countries have shared security interest as well as showed mutual coordination in matters affecting each other.
  • Apart from inaugurating Mangdechhu hydroelectric power plant on time, India has moved beyond the traditional forms of cooperation with Bhutan, such as in space, digital payment, education etc.
  • The Himalayas cover the northern border of Nepal and Bhutan while the southern part of these countries are stretched in the Gangetic plains of India. Hence, India is able to support these countries in petroleum, in natural gas, in communication such as newly established satellite station at Thimphu (Capital of Bhutan).
  • Moreover, Bhutan (and Nepal as well) is also part of the ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’ (BIMSTEC).

IT’s Input

What is Doklham Incident?

Doklham Incident India's World - PM Modi's Visit to 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

  • It is important to know that Bhutan is India’s strongest ally in the east and is the buffer state between India and China, along with Nepal.
  • 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.  
  • 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.

Areas that need special attention

Having huge debt of Bhutan with India, Bhutan is trying to reduce the debt by picking the option of trade rather than aid from India.


  • The royal majesty of Bhutan has been very keen about the space sector. The Bhutan thanked India for launching South Asia Satellite (SAS) in 2017 which helped Bhutan in different sectors such as broadcasting, education, disaster dealing, telemedicine etc.
  • Moreover, India also announced that the additional transponder and bandwidth will also be provided.


  • India has collaborated with Bhutan in education sector by setting up of institutions in Bhutan and having cooperation between Bhutan students and premier educational institutions of India.
  • However, there is a feeling that Bhutanese students coming from royalties/nobilities, who were earlier used to come to India for higher studies are now going in western countries.
  • Hence, there is need to attract those students in India and there is need for promoting people to people contact as well.


Partial implementation of BBIN MVA

  • Under the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Initiative, in 2015, the Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) for the Regulation of Passenger, Personnel and Cargo Vehicular Traffic was signed among the four countries.
  • However, the BBIN MVA, conceived to transform and facilitate trade, has not yet been completely successful as Bhutan is worried about climate change and does not want its area to be polluted. Moreover, the climate change could hamper the food security of Bhutan.

Training of Bhutanese army

  • All of the Bhutanese army officers are trained in India in various academies such as in National Defence Academy, Indian Military Academy etc.
  • However, lately, there have been cases where Bhutan is sending their army officers to western countries for training.

North-east terrorists

  • Since 2013, Bhutan and India have been holding secretariat level meeting twice a year to discuss various issues. In such meeting in 2018, India has raised the issue of certain North-East terrorists using Bhutanese area.

Bhutan’s cooperation with India

  • Bhutan has resisted to take part in China’s Belt and Road initiative. This can be seen in the second inauguration ceremony of Belt and Road initiative where most of the countries such as Nepal were present, but not Bhutan.
  • Moreover, China is trying to swap the Doklham region with Bhutan with another territory of Bhutan. So far, Bhutan has not agreed to that.
  • China is also proposing big investment in ‘East West Bhutan Corridor’ as well to which Bhutan has not taken any steps yet.


  • Bhutan wants to develop and grow economically. But at the same time, it also wants to protect their environment.
  • Hence, India should deliberate on how can it help in developing the infrastructure, promoting high-end tourism in terms of clean technologies and trade support facility (under which India will provide 4 thousand Crores in next 5 years to Bhutan).
  • The launching of Rupey card and encouragement given to Bhutanese banks to launch facility similar to Rupey card etc. shows the good relationships between the two countries.
  • It is also imperative to deliberate on whether the applications like BHIM can be used in Bhutan. Moreover, it is vital to deliberate on how to use the space for benefit of the people in Bhutan along with focusing on the youth.
  • Given the current deforestation scenario of India, India should learn how to make eco-friendly developmental policies from Bhutan as Bhutan is ‘Negative Carbon Producer’ (development without hurting environment) country.


  • Bhutan has been the strongest ally of India. It stands with India when all the neighboring countries were not. Hence, India should provide defence equipments to Bhutan and should take care of the sensibilities of Bhutan.
  • India has also understood that there are two groups on which it should give more emphasis – Parliament and the Youth of the Bhutan (Royal University of Bhutan).
  • In return, India, being a close friend of Bhutan, also wants to address the challenges faced by Bhutan. India should make sure that incident like Doklham should not occur again.
  • However, as china is coming fiercely towards Bhutan, India needs to be alert to this threat.

IT’s Input

About the Mangdechhu Hydro project

  • Mangdechhu hydroelectric project is a 720 MW run-of-river power plant on the Mangdechhu River in Trongsa Dzongkhag District of central Bhutan.
  • It is being developed by Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project Authority (MHPA) constituted jointly by Governments of India and Bhutan.
  • Initiated in 2010, it is one of the major projects under Bhutan’s initiative to generate 10,000 MW hydropower by 2020 with Indian support.
  • Government of India has funded over INR 3,000 crore for the project with 70 percent of that as loan and 30 per cent as grant.


  • The project is estimated to generate 2,923 GWh of electricity.
  • Most of the electricity generated by the project will meet the energy requirements of Bhutan and the surplus electricity (3/4th) will be exported to India.

Key Facts

  • Bhutan has four major rivers, named Drangme Chhu (largest), Mo Chhu, Wang Chhu and Torsa Chhu.
  • The Drangme Chhu river originates from Arunachal Pradesh and is divided into three rivers in Bhutan, namely Mangde Chhu, Bumthang Chhu and Drangme Chhu.


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