As we step into the new year, reflecting on the milestones achieved in 2023 unveils a resolute commitment to strengthening the enduring bond between India and Bhutan. In a recent interview with Kuensel, the Indian Ambassador to Bhutan provided insights into the pivotal moments that defined the past year and outlined the roadmap for an even more robust relationship in 2024.
Undoubtedly, 2023 was a landmark year marked by high-level engagements, trade interactions, and cultural exchanges. The official visits of His Majesty to India in April and November were historic, fostering progress in a spectrum of bilateral ties, including energy cooperation, development partnerships, cross-border connectivity, and trade and investment linkages. The resonance of these visits underscores the unique and enduring nature of the friendship between India and Bhutan.
One of the significant developments discussed in the interview is the Gelephu Mindfulness City project, a visionary initiative announced by His Majesty during the National Day celebrations. The project not only aims to create new economic opportunities in Bhutan but also serves as a privileged opportunity for India to contribute to the region’s economic prosperity. The commitment to work hand in hand on this endeavor reflects the depth of the friendship and mutual understanding between the two nations.
The Ambassador also shed light on the importance of His Majesty’s first official visit to Assam in November 2023. The warm welcome and the tangible interest shown by the people and political leadership of Assam signify a new chapter in bilateral cooperation. The announced initiatives, including the Kokrajhar-Gelephu rail-link and the integrated check post at Gelephu-Dadgari, highlight the shared commitment to fostering economic growth and development in the region.
Looking ahead to 2024, the Ambassador outlined key priorities that resonate with His Majesty’s vision. The focus remains on enhancing connectivity, deepening economic and energy cooperation, and fostering people-to-people connections. India’s unwavering support for Bhutan’s goal of becoming a high-income nation by 2034 is evident in the commitment to collaborate across sectors and strengthen the bilateral relationship.
Connectivity emerges as a vital theme in the interview, with discussions on cross-border trade and infrastructure development. The proposed rail link between Kokrajhar and Gelephu, along with other connectivity initiatives, reflects India’s commitment to enhancing regional connectivity and stimulating economic activities for the benefit of both nations.
Energy cooperation, a longstanding pillar of the relationship, continues to evolve. The successful commissioning of projects like Mangdechhu HEP and the forthcoming Punatsangchhu II HEP demonstrate the commitment to clean energy and regional energy security. The exploration of new avenues, including renewable energy and green hydrogen, showcases the adaptability of the partnership to changing market conditions and global initiatives.
Crucially, the interview emphasizes India’s steadfast commitment to supporting Bhutan’s Five Year Plans. The successful collaboration during Bhutan’s 12th Five Year Plan has set the stage for continued support in sectors such as energy, skill development, digital connectivity, and trade infrastructure during the upcoming 13th Five Year Plan.