India-Bhutan Relationship Expands Beyond Strategic Interests

The recent meeting between His Majesty The King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has garnered significant attention, particularly in light of the renewed focus on the Doklam issue. The talks between the two leaders were described as “warm and productive” and resulted in the identification of a five-point broad roadmap to expand the “time-tested” relations between India and Bhutan. While there was no explicit mention of the Doklam issue, it is clear that it remains an important area for India’s strategic interests.

The five-point roadmap identified by the leaders covers a range of areas, including economic and development partnership, trade, connectivity and investment cooperation, sustainable trade facilitation measures, new paradigms of cooperation in areas of energy, and cooperation in new sectors such as space and startups. The roadmap also includes plans to expedite the proposed rail link project between Kokrajhar in Assam and Gelephu in Bhutan, which would be the first-ever rail link between the two countries. India has also agreed to step up its support for Bhutan’s upcoming 13th Five-Year Plan and to extend an additional standby credit facility at Bhutan’s request.

India and Bhutan share an “exemplary” relationship characterized by trust, goodwill, and mutual understanding. This relationship is based on mutual respect, trust, close understanding, and sensitivity to each other’s concerns. The intertwined and indivisible nature of India and Bhutan’s security concerns is self-evident, and the two countries maintain a long-standing tradition of very close consultations on matters relating to their mutual interests and security.

The roadmap identified by the leaders is an important step in expanding the time-tested relationship between India and Bhutan. The proposed rail link project between Kokrajhar and Gelephu will not only enhance connectivity between the two countries but will also provide a boost to economic and trade ties. India’s support for Bhutan’s upcoming Five Year Plan and the extension of an additional standby credit facility will help to support Bhutan’s socioeconomic development. The identification of new areas of cooperation such as space and startups highlights the growing breadth and depth of the relationship between the two countries.

India and Bhutan’s exemplary relationship is a testament to the power of mutual respect, trust, and cooperation. The two countries share a deep commitment to each other’s security and mutual interests, and the roadmap identified by Modi and Wangchuck will only serve to strengthen this relationship. While the Doklam issue remains a point of concern, the talks between the leaders demonstrate a commitment to finding peaceful solutions and expanding the relationship between the two countries. As India and Bhutan continue to deepen their ties, they will serve as a shining example of the benefits of cooperation and mutual respect in international relations.

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