Indo-Bhutan Ties: A Strong Partnership

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    Syllabus : GS 2/International Relations

    • India and Bhutan have been the closest of partners and the best of friends over the past 50 years and more. Both need constant tending, regular dialogue and a lot of care and cooperation.
    • Diplomatic ties: Formal diplomatic ties between the two countries were established in 1968, with the cornerstone being the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed in 1949, and subsequently renewed in February 2007. 
    • High-level exchanges: Over the years, high-level exchanges have played a pivotal role in nurturing the strong bond between India and Bhutan. 
    • Economic partnership: The economic partnership between India and Bhutan has flourished over the years, driven by the India-Bhutan Agreement on Trade, Commerce, and Transit.
      • This agreement, first signed in 1972 and revised multiple times, has facilitated a free trade regime between the two countries, promoting bilateral trade and economic growth. 
      • India stands as Bhutan’s top trade partner, both in terms of imports and exports.
      • The bilateral trade volume has seen a significant surge, reaching INR 11,178 crores in 2022. 
    • India’s investments in Bhutan span various sectors, including banking, manufacturing, electricity generation, and IT services, contributing to Bhutan’s socio-economic development and fostering closer economic integration.
      • India has been a steadfast development partner for Bhutan, extending economic assistance to support its socio-economic progress since the 1960s.
        •  India’s contribution to Bhutan’s 12th Five Year Plan, amounting to Rs 5000 Cr., underscores its commitment to supporting Bhutan’s developmental aspirations.
    • Hydropower cooperation :it remains a cornerstone of bilateral economic cooperation between India and Bhutan.
      • Bhutan’s hydro-power potential has been harnessed through mutually beneficial partnerships, contributing significantly to its socio-economic development.
      • The commissioning of projects like the Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project .
      •  The Punatsangchhu-II hydropower project is expected to be completed in 2024 — yet another successful example of the government-to-government model of cooperation in hydropower.
    • Educational and cultural ties: They are integral to their bilateral relations.
      • India has been a key destination for Bhutanese students seeking higher education, with over 1000 scholarships provided annually by the Government of India.
      • Additionally, cultural exchanges and initiatives under the India-Bhutan Foundation have strengthened people-to-people ties, fostering greater understanding and collaboration between the two societies.
    • Human Resource Development: The Nehru Wangchuck Scholarship Scheme, ICCR Scholarships, and ITEC program have further facilitated skill development and capacity building in Bhutan.
    • New avenues for collaboration: including digital initiatives, space cooperation, and technology partnerships.
      • Projects like ‘Digital Drukyul’ and the joint development of satellites reflect the commitment to harnessing technology for mutual benefit and socio-economic progress. 
      • The interoperability of flagship projects like RuPay and the BHIM app demonstrates the evolving nature of the bilateral relationship, with a focus on leveraging digital innovations for inclusive growth and development.
    • Recent developments, including progress on rail connectivity links and the establishment of Integrated Check Posts, underscore the commitment to enhancing trade and connectivity between India and Bhutan. 
    • As Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares to visit Bhutan, the stage is set for further strengthening the multifaceted cooperation between the two neighbouring nations across various sectors. 
    • In the years ahead, India must contribute to the success of the Gelephu Mindfulness City and can perhaps consider the following measures:
      • commence direct flights between Mumbai/Delhi and Gelephu;
      •  provide our technology and knowledge in building hard infrastructure to Bhutan (the private sector will take the lead); 
      • encourage high-end Indian tourists and businesspersons to visit Gelephu in controlled numbers; 
      • Encourage Indian businesses to set up shop in the city.
    Mains Practice Question 
    [Q] India’s developmental footprint in Bhutan continues to grow, reinforcing the strategic partnership between the two nations. Comment 

    Source: TH