The joint unveiling of a logo marks the beginning of festivities
“The friendship between India and Bhutan is solid as a rock and I have no doubt will always remain so. It’s not only geographical proximity but mutual love and friendship that has kept us close to each other. Nothing is more valuable than mutual friendship and love.”
His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who cemented the relations with India, gave this interview to Air India Radio in February 1968 in Delhi, India a few weeks after the posting of the first special officer of India to Bhutan.
Fifty years later, in a grand ceremony yesterday, marked with traditional songs and dances, the two foreign ministers unveiled a special logo to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries through a videoconference.
Foreign Minister Damcho Dorji said that Bhutan-India relations have been shaped as much by history, culture and geopolitical realties as also by the wise and visionary leadership of the two countries and the belief of their peoples in a shared destiny.
Lyonpo said that, the two countries would meet common challenges and harness emerging opportunities under the dynamic leaderships of the two friendly nations.
He also added that this year is an opportunity to showcase to the world the successful relationship between two neighbours and how two vastly asymmetrical countries can co-exist and prosper.
Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said that India-Bhutan relation is built on shared values and priorities, utmost trust and understanding, mutual respect and sensitivity to each other’s interests.
She said that India has been privileged to be a close partner of Bhutan in its nation building and socio-economic transformation. “Bhutan has realised economic development and happiness for its people along with preserving its natural heritage, cultural and human values. Thanks to judiciousness and foresight of the successive monarchs of Bhutan, the people of India take pride in the achievements of the friendly people of Bhutan.”
The bilateral ties have been sustained by a regular exchange of high level visits and dialogues. While Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose to visit Bhutan after being sworn in 2014, Their Majesties and HRH The Gyalsey visited India in November last year.
The ministers said that the occasion was to pay homage to the founding fathers who made tremendous contributions through their continuous effort for the growth and diversification of the relationship and also look ahead to a new chapter in our relations.
The minister said that given the significance of the age old friendship, His Majesty The King was pleased to command the formation of a national organising committee under the chairmanship of the former Chief Justice Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye to ensure the success of a meaningful and befitting golden jubilee anniversary celebration for the government and people of two countries.
A joint committee for celebrations comprising senior officials from the government and the Embassy of India in Thimphu, and Ministry of External Affairs and the Royal Bhutanese embassy in New Delhi have been enduring to deliver on the aspirations of two governments.
The launch of the logo kicks off a year full of festivities in both the countries. The two countries have been working on number of activities to be organised throughout the year. To celebrate the special, close and exemplary relationship in a befitting manner, apart from commemorating events such as cultural and sporting activities, the planned activities include inauguration of a number of infrastructure projects, new initiatives and numerous exchanges that is expected to take the relationship to next level.
A plan for the yearlong celebration is divided into three broad themes: commemorative issues, events and milestones. A string of cultural events, shows, exhibitions, business seminars, commemorative events and inauguration of large infrastructure projects in Bhutan have been planned to commemorate the historic occasion in a befitting manner.
The minister said that the celebrations, which also include laying foundation stones for mega hydropower projects, are held in a manner that truly reflects our excellent bilateral relations and set the tone for further strengthening in the next 50 years and beyond.
Indian Ambassador to Bhutan, Jaideep Sarkar said that the purpose of these events is to create awareness, generate goodwill and remind people of the importance of the unique relationship that the two countries have. “The idea is to generate peoples’ participation,” he said.
Bhutan-India relations existed long before the establishment of diplomatic relations. “Spring water from mountains of Bhutan that fed the fertile plains of India. While the spiritual nourishment from the plains of India enriched the valleys of Bhutan.”
Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said the relationship between Bhutan and India goes as far back as the 1600s when Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel had good relations with the neighbouring states including Kashmir. “We had a lot of good will and good relations between Assam, West Bengal and even parts of Bangladesh.”
He said Zhabdrung Rimpoche received presents in the form of saffron (dezang), which is how it got incorporated in Zhugdrel Phuensum tshogpa.
During British India, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck had such good relations with India that he negotiated dispute between India and Tibet.
Later, relation with India was further strengthened with the visit of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, which was also the start of the economic bilateral ties between the two countries.
India has been crucial in supporting Bhutan’s five year development plans and continues to do so.
“We are grateful to the government of India and President, Prime Minister and the foreign minister for extending a warm reception and hospitality to Their Majesties and HRH The Gyalsey, who was on his first visit to India. We were overwhelmed by the love and affection that was showered on HRH The Gyalsey.”
Sushma Swaraj in her speech attributed the success of the relationship to the vision, wisdom and foresight of political leadership in India and Their Majesties the revered Kings of Bhutan who laid the strong foundations for this special and unique relationship.
Resident representatives were exchanged on May 17, 1971 and upgraded to the status of an embassy on August 8, 1978. Bhutan raised its representation in India to Ambassadorial level in 1971 and in 1978 changed the name of its diplomatic office in New Delhi from Royal Bhutan Mission to Royal Bhutanese Embassy.
It was the close friendship between His Majesty the third Druk Gyalpo and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru that laid strong foundations for close friendship and cooperation, which was further strengthened during the reigns of the successive Kings.
Tshering Palden and Phurpa Lhamo
Additional Reporting by Tenzin Thinley & Chimi Rinzin