Trust, mutual respect and partnership in sustainable development – Bhutan and India

It is a well-known fact that the relationship between Bhutan and India stands on the solid ground of trust, goodwill and mutual understanding.  The two countries share a close relationship based on civilization, culture and economy. To Bhutan, India is gyagar, which means ‘the holy land ‘, as Buddhism originated in India, the religion followed by the majority of people in Bhutan.

The relationship between the two countries deepened further with the start of diplomatic relations between them in 1968. The foundation of this relationship stands on Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty of 1949 which focuses on ‘perpetual peace and friendship, free trade and commerce, and equal justice to each other’s citizen’.

Not only Bhutan shares 699 kilometres long boundary with India touching four Indian states namely, West Bengal, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, but also acts as a key player in two of India’s cardinal foreign policy elements – Neighbourhood policy and Act East Policy.  With India providing support to Bhutan in various sectors, including economic development, infrastructure, education, health and security, the two nations share a close strategic partnership.

India is also Bhutan’s most important trading partner providing both source and market for its trade in good and services. India provides transit routes to a landlocked Bhutan and is a biggest market for various Bhutan’s export like hydroelectricity, semi-finished products, ferrosilicon and dolomite.

Boosting strategic relationship further, India deployed its Military Training Team ( IMTRAT ) in Bhutan to train the Bhutanese security forces in 1961 and has been responsible for Bhutan’s security since then.

The security matter between the two countries became even more important because of the Doklam standoff between Indian and Chinese forces in 2017.  It has shown the way to even better coordination and partnership between Indian and Bhutanese forces to secure the strategic area.

 The solid foundation of India – Bhutan relationship is based on the hydroelectricity generation.  The two countries have come together to jointly develop 10,000 MW of hydroelectricity capacity in Bhutan. The completion of the 720 MW Mangdechu Hydropower project has been considered as the achievement between the partnership between the countries. This has led to the discussions of the Sankosh Hydropower project building between the two countries.

Even the pandemic could not shake the solid foundation between the two countries. Together they endeavoured 600 MW Kholongchuu Hydropower project during the crucial time. The project is meaning to generate surplus hydroelectricity for Bhutan which will be exported to India which will help Bhutan in generating revenue as well as employment.

The recent launch of a joint India- Bhutan SAT satellite by ISRO marks a new era of India-Bhutan relations in the realm of scientific and technological cooperation. This new satellite is meaning to help Bhutan by providing real-time data and high-resolution images for land mapping and facilitating managing its natural resources, forests and agriculture.

The fields of digital and space have witnessed several key initiatives such as RuPay, the integration of Bhutan’s DrukREN with India’s National Knowledge Network and the establishment of Ground Earth Station by ISRO to harness the services of South Asia Satellite. India is spreading its technological footprint trough digital and space cooperation which is benefiting Bhutan. Bhutan always found India standing next to it in crucial times, and Bhutan acknowledges it. Bhutan expressed its deep gratitude and appreciation to India at the UN General Assembly for its ‘heart-warming goodwill’ and ‘valuable support’ for supplying the Covid -19 vaccines under New Delhi’s Vaccine Maitri initiative that enabled Bhutan to start out Covid-19 vaccination programme during the most testing times. The two nations shall forever be proud of their relationship which is based on trust, shared cultured values, mutual respect and partnership in sustainable development.

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