- The Indian External Affairs Minister is on an official visit to Bhutan.
India-Bhutan Bilateral Relations
- The basic framework of India-Bhutan bilateral relations was the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed in 1949 between the two countries.
- It called for peace between the two nations and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
- The Treaty was revised in 2007.
- However, Bhutan agreed to let India guide its foreign policy and both nations would consult each other closely on foreign and defence affairs.
- The diplomatic relations were established in 1968 with the establishment of a special office of India in Thimphu.
- There are a number of institutional and diplomatic mechanisms between India and Bhutan in areas such as security, border management, trade, transit, economic, hydro-power, development cooperation, water resources etc.
- Bhutan shares its border with four Indian states: Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Sikkim with a length of 699 km and serves as a buffer between India and China.
Strategic Importance of Bhutan
- Bhutan is important to India as a buffer state as it acts as a defence against China by protecting the chicken neck corridor.
- The Siliguri Corridor, or Chicken’s Neck, is a narrow stretch of land of about 22 kilometres.
- It is located in the Indian state of West Bengal, which connects India’s north-eastern states to the rest of India, with the countries of Nepal and Bangladesh lying on either side of the corridor.
- The Doklam stand-off re-established the strategic significance of Bhutan for India.
- The trade between the two countries is governed by the India-Bhutan Trade and Transit Agreement 1972.
- India is Bhutan’s largest trading partner.
- Benefits to North Eastern States: Increased trade and commerce relationship with Bhutan will be highly beneficial to landlocked Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
India Bhutan Hydropower Projects
- India has constructed three Hydroelectric Projects (HEPs) in Bhutan:
- Chukha HEP,
- Kurichhu HEP
- Tala HEP which is operational and exporting surplus power to India.
- Recently, India completed a 720 MW Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Power Project and both sides are in process of expediting the completion of other ongoing projects including the 1200MW Punatsangchhu-1 & 1020MW Punatsangchhu-2.
Recent developments in India-Bhutan Relations
- Maitri Initiative: Bhutan is the first country to receive the Covishield vaccines under India’s Vaccine Maitri Initiative.
- STEM: Two countries are collaborating closely on STEM through regular placement of Bhutanese youth in our IITs.
- Financial connectivity: It has touched new heights through the launch of the RuPay card and the BHIM app.
- Start-Up ecosystem: Both nations successfully linked up the Start-Up systems of our two countries via structured workshops; through the National Knowledge Network & the Druk-REN connection.
- E-Library project: It has opened up new vistas of education and knowledge sharing between two countries.
- India Bhutan Satellite: It is due to launch into space shortly.
- Scholarships: There are many scholarships available for undergraduate and postgraduate studies for Bhutanese students by India, namely Nehru-Wangchuck Scholarships, Ambassador’s Scholarship etc.
- The Road ahead for India-Bhutan ties is one of tremendous potential and opportunities.
- Both the countries must enhance connectivity which is a central pillar of India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ and ‘Act East’ policies.