2nd November 2023,Mumbai: India and Bhutan’s Special Relationship
India and Bhutan share a unique and longstanding bond of friendship and cooperation that is marked by mutual trust and understanding. This article delves into Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck’s upcoming official visit to India, a significant event in the backdrop of ongoing boundary talks between China and Bhutan.
The Context: Bhutan-China Boundary Talks
Just weeks before Bhutan’s King Wangchuck’s visit to India, China and Bhutan engaged in their 25th round of boundary talks in Beijing. They also inked a cooperation agreement addressing the responsibilities and functions of the Joint Technical Team (JTT) for delimiting and demarcating the Bhutan-China boundary. This visit’s timing holds considerable significance due to the ongoing efforts to resolve the disputed border between Bhutan and China.
Progress in Boundary Talks
The 25th round of boundary talks between Bhutan and China builds upon a three-step roadmap established in 2021 to address the boundary dispute. The initial technical talks, held in August, suggested that both nations may have reached a consensus on a possible alignment for their contested border. This marks significant progress in negotiations and has raised eyebrows in New Delhi.
Cooperation Agreement and Common Goals
During the border talks, Bhutan’s Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji met his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, along with Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong. An important outcome of these discussions was the cooperation agreement, reflecting the shared commitment of both nations to reach a border agreement in the near future.
King Wangchuck’s Visit: A Diplomatic Opportunity
King Wangchuck’s visit to India presents an opportunity for Bhutan to communicate its stance on the ongoing boundary negotiations with China to the Indian leadership. As a vital partner in India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy, Bhutan holds a significant position in India’s foreign relations. This visit could serve as a platform for India and Bhutan to synchronize their strategies and priorities.
India’s Continued Support
Bhutan’s importance to India’s foreign policy is underlined by the generous allocation of ₹2,400 crore in the 2023-24 budget, out of a total foreign aid outlay of ₹5,408 crore. This reaffirms India’s commitment to its neighbor’s development and prosperity and showcases Bhutan as a primary beneficiary of India’s external aid.
King’s Agenda: Meeting Key Officials
During his official visit, King Wangchuck is scheduled to meet several high-ranking Indian officials, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. These meetings are expected to focus on various aspects of bilateral cooperation and partnership, encompassing diverse sectors.
Regional Connectivity: A Visit to Assam
As part of his itinerary, King Wangchuck will visit the Indian state of Assam, which shares a border with Bhutan. This visit is significant in terms of regional connectivity and trade relations, as it can facilitate stronger economic and cultural ties between the two nations.
Exploring Maharashtra: Cultural Exchange
In addition to Assam, the Bhutanese King will also explore the state of Maharashtra during his visit. This exploration is not only an opportunity to appreciate India’s cultural diversity but also a chance to explore potential avenues for cultural exchange and collaboration.
Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck’s official visit to India is a pivotal moment in the evolving dynamics of the region. It provides an avenue for Bhutan to convey its perspective on the boundary talks with China and reaffirm its commitment to its strategic partnership with India. As the visit unfolds, it is likely to further enhance the unique and enduring friendship that binds these two nations together.
-by Kashvi Gala