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India-Bhutan Relations

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Relations with India’s neighbouring countries

 

Source: The Hindu

Context: Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is on a visit to India

 

Various dimensions of cooperation between India and Bhutan with examples:

DimensionExamples
Strategic Bhutan serves as a buffer between India and China, protecting the Siliguri Corridor (also known as Chicken’s Neck). The Doklam standoff (2017) has re-established Bhutan’s strategic significance for India. Bhutan does not have any formal diplomatic relations with China.
Historical The Indo-Bhutan Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1949, is the bedrock of India and Bhutan’s relationship
Economic India is Bhutan’s largest trading partner (mostly in electricity). Also, increased trade with Bhutan benefits landlocked states like Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. India has decided to support Bhutan’s upcoming 13th Five-Year Plan (for 12 FYP, India had provided 4500Cr)
Cultural and EducationalBuddhism. India also offers various scholarships for Bhutanese students through Nehru-Wangchuck Scholarships, Ambassador’s Scholarship
Energy India has constructed three Hydroelectric Projects in Bhutan (and exporting surplus power to India)—Chhukha HEP, Kurichhu HEP, and Tala HEP. India is also building Mangdechhu, Punatsangchhu 1 and 2 Hydroelectric Power Projects in Bhutan.

 

Also, India will expedite the proposed Kokrajhar-Gelephu rail link project.

Regional Both nations cooperate in regional forums such as BIMSTEC and SAARC.
Technological E.g., the E-Library project and the India-Bhutan satellite, India’s Vaccine Maitri Initiative
Environmental India is supporting Bhutan in its efforts to become carbon negative.

 

Issues between the two countries:

  • Border Dispute: Disputes over the exact demarcation of the border between the two countries.
  • Hydropower Projects: Concerns in Bhutan over environmental and social impacts from the project. Also, Bhutan has sought greater revenue from these projects
  • Trade Imbalance: Bhutan is heavily dependent on India for its imports.
  • Cross-Border Movement: Bhutan has restricted the cross-border movement of Indian workers, citing concerns over the impact on Bhutan’s culture and society.
  • Political Interference: Bhutan has accused India of interfering in its internal affairs, particularly during the 2013 elections.

 

Conclusion:

India-Bhutan relations have remained strong and friendly, characterized by a deep sense of trust and understanding.  Both countries must enhance connectivity which is a central pillar of India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ and ‘Act East’ policies.

 

Inta Links

India-Bhutan