Rinzin Wangchuk

In a period marked by significant transformation for Bhutan, especially post-LDC graduation and projects like the Gelephu Mindfulness City, the State Visit by the Indian Prime Minister holds profound significance.

The bustling streets of Thimphu buzzed with anticipation and discussions as the nation awaited the arrival of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Scheduled to arrive yesterday, the Prime Minister’s visit faced a setback as it was cancelled a day ahead of his planned departure due to inclement weather.

Both the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Bhutanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade (MoFAET) announced on Wednesday evening that due to ongoing inclement weather conditions over Paro airport, it had been mutually decided to postpone the State Visit to Bhutan on March 21-22.

The Indian Prime Minister is expected to arrive in Bhutan today.

This historic visit comeafter the invitation of His Majesty the King, underscoring the deep-rooted bonds between the two nations.

Reflecting on the impending visit, a prominent businesswoman based in Thimphu emphasized its importance.

“The State Visit by the Indian Prime Minister to Bhutan during this period of significant transformation is highly significant,” she said. “It demonstrates the strong and enduring relationship between our two countries and reaffirms the commitment to mutual prosperity and progress.”

“As Bhutan navigates the challenges and opportunities that come with Least Developed Countries (LDC) graduation, the support and collaboration of our closest neighbour, India, are crucial,” the businesswoman said. “The visit offers an opportunity to deepen cooperation in key areas such as trade, investment, and development assistance, which will contribute to the overall growth and development of Bhutan.”

PM Modi’s visit symbolises the special bond between the two countries, a bond that unites them in shared aspirations and endeavours.

Another businessman highlighted the economic implications of the visit. “As Bhutan addresses economic challenges and copes with the loss of preferential treatment post-LDC graduation, PM Modi’s visit presents a significant opportunity,” he said. “It’s a chance for Bhutan to leverage the Indo-Bhutan relationship for economic and developmental benefits.”

“PM Modi’s vision of making India the third-largest economy in the world, if re-elected for a third term, presents potential opportunities for Bhutan to benefit from India’s economic growth,” the businessman, who runs a training institute in Thimphu, said. “Additionally, the visit could pave the way for securing funding for critical projects like hydroelectric ventures and the 13th five-year plan budgets.”

A retired bureaucrat offered a historical perspective, emphasising the continuity of Indo-Bhutan ties. “I personally feel it’s a continuum of Indo-Bhutan ties, diplomatic relations,” he said.

“India’s support, particularly in projects like the Gelephu Mindfulness City, would be invaluable,” a former diplomat said, adding that it’s reassuring to see that our long-standing friendship with India continues. “India’s strong economy and unwavering commitment to Bhutan ensure stability and support for our nation, regardless of changes in government,” he said.

A member of Parliament (MP) weighed in on the visit’s timing and significance.

“The visit of PM Modi arrives at a pivotal moment,” he observed. “Coinciding with Bhutan’s initiation of a significant transformational endeavor, including the commencement of the 13th Plan, the Indian Prime Minister’s visit holds the potential to lay a solid foundation for collaboration and support.”

With Bhutan’s need for support pronounced during this transformative phase, PM Modi’s visit reinforces the bilateral ties between our nations, the MP said, underscoring the importance of collaboration during this critical juncture in Bhutan’s development.


Some highlights of PM Modi’s visit

PM Modi is expected to receive Bhutan’s highest civilian award, the Order of the Druk Gyalpo, from His Majesty The King at Tendrelthang, Tashichhodzong today.

The highest award was conferred on Modi in 2021 in appreciation for his efforts towards strengthening Indo-Bhutan ties, and in particular India’s provision of the first round of 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines in 2021.

During his two-day visit to Bhutan, PM Modi will receive audiences with His Majesty The King and His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, a testament to the profound respect shared between the leaders of India and Bhutan.

PM Modi will also meet his counterpart, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, according to a press release from MoFAET.

Among the highlights of this historic visit is the momentous inauguration of the Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck Mother and Child Hospital in Thimphu, a symbol of the collaborative efforts between the two nations in advancing healthcare infrastructure.

Additionally, PM Modi and Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay will preside over the exchange of several Memoranda of Understanding, fostering deeper cooperation across various spheres of mutual interest.

This is the second State Visit to Bhutan by PM Narendra Modi during his second term as the Prime Minister of India. His last visit to Bhutan was in August 2019.