Yearender | Foreign Affairs: The year of the Monkey kept the foreign ministry on its toes with multiple high profile visits.

The country’s diplomatic relations with numerous old friends were further strengthened with prominent members of their royalties returning to their countries impressed with Bhutan.

A much talked about visit was that of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, HRH Prince William and Kate Middleton. The royal couple’s visit materialised following an invitation from His Majesty The King. They arrived in the country in April, accompanied by an entourage of more than 70 members of the foreign press, for a two-day visit. The royal couple tried their hand at archery and khuru in Changlimithang, and even hiked up to Taktshang.

About a month later, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn arrived on a four-day visit in May. The Princess visited the Wangbama, Wanakha and Samtengang central schools, which were beneficiaries of HRH’s agriculture programme.

Soon after, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the chairman of the Kingdom Holding Company (KHC), visited the country.

The King of Sweden Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia left the country on June 11 after a three-day state visit, impressed with the way the Bhutanese have preserved their tradition and culture.

The ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to India, Luo Zhaohui during his visit to the country said that China recognises the importance of the development philosophy of Gross National Happiness. Bhutanese living in the capital also witnessed songs, dances and acrobatics performed by the Xinjiang Art Theatre Song and Dance Troupe.

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Bhutan-Japan diplomatic relations, Bhutan witnessed a record arrival of Japanese tourists in the months of June, July and August. More than 3,300 tourists as compared to only 625 in the same period in 2015 visited the country.

Expressing security concerns, Bhutan joined numerous countries including India to not participate in the 19th SAARC summit to be held in Islamabad, Pakistan which was scheduled to be held in November last year.

The government expressed its concern to the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, who was the chair of SAARC, that the deteriorating security situation in the region had created an environment which is not conducive for the successful holding of the 19th SAARC summit.

The foreign ministry which has remained shy of the media yet again made headlines. After the two controversies that involved its former minister and the secretary, Lyonpo Damcho Dorji became embroiled in a corruption case. The minister however accepted lack of oversight and accountability.

The ministry also underwent a change at the helm as its Chief of Protocol Sonam Tshong took over as the new secretary. Sonam Tobden Rabgye was appointed the Ambassador to Bangladesh, and Tshewang C Dorji became the Ambassador to Thailand.

India appointed Jaideep Sarkar as its 17th ambassador to Bhutan in February. He replaced Gautam Bambawale who left to join as the Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan.

The country’s foreign relations was also active with regular exchanges of diplomats from various countries and goodwill visits from regional and international agencies.

Tshering Palden