KP Sharma

The Prime Minister’s first official visit to India after taking office went well. Both governments agreed on working together in many areas during the 13th plan.

As stated in a joint announcement by the two countries, the Prime Ministers recognised the strong bond between their countries and its importance for the stability and prosperity of the region.

The relationship between India and Bhutan has been defined by a strong and lasting friendship, built on trust and understanding between the two nations.

The statement mentioned that Prime Minister Modi praised Bhutan for effectively dealing with the difficulties brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. He especially mentioned Bhutan’s achievement of graduating from the Least Developed Countries (LDC) category in December 2023.

Prime Minister Modi also commended Bhutan for successfully carrying out the 12th Five-Year Plan (FYP). He restated India’s dedication to supporting Bhutan in achieving its economic goals in the future.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also expressed his sincere appreciation for His Majesty’s vision of Gelephu Mindfulness City, recognising its potential to drive economic growth and development in Bhutan and the surrounding region.

In this context, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay thanked for the India’s support, for a development grant of INR 5000 crores for Bhutan’s 12th Five Year Plan.

The grant has played a significant role in enhancing Bhutan’s social and economic welfare by focusing on infrastructure development, improving connectivity, and investing in key sectors like agriculture, healthcare, education, and cultural preservation.

The joint statement also highlighted the leaders’ commitment to strengthening economic cooperation, especially in the hydro-power sector, which has long been a key aspect of the bilateral partnership between the two countries.

They instructed officials to speed up discussions on new hydro-power projects and expressed satisfaction with the advancement of ongoing projects such as the Punatshangchhu-II hydro-power project.

Recognising the need to diversify energy sources, both sides agreed to expand cooperation beyond hydro-power to include solar and wind energy, as well as initiatives for hydrogen and e-mobility, along with energy efficiency and conservation measures.

In addition, the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for concessional financing of INR 1500 crores for GyalSung, Bhutan’s National Service Program, highlights India’s commitment to supporting Bhutan’s youth development initiatives.

Space technology collaboration was also discussed, with recent initiatives including technical capacity-building programs by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for Bhutan and the development of a Joint Plan of Action on Space Cooperation.

Connectivity enhancement was a key topic, including rail and road infrastructure development and the opening of new immigration and trading routes, which were noted with satisfaction. Progress on establishing rail-links between Banarhat-Samtse and Kokrajhar-Gelephu is expected to improve physical connectivity.

Both countries emphasised collaboration in emerging areas like digital technology, start-ups, and STEM education to strengthen people-to-people relations and foster innovation.

Commitment to sports infrastructure development, educational cooperation, including expanding STEM pedagogy, and the contribution of Indian teachers were also highlighted.

Prime Minister Modi also accepted an invitation from Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay to visit Bhutan on behalf of His Majesty the King, further solidifying bilateral ties.

In Mumbai, Lyonchhen attended a tourism event, emphasising collaboration in the tourism sector between India and Bhutan. Discussions with tour companies aimed to strengthen ties and promote tourism.

Lyonchhen also met with the governor of Maharashtra to discuss enhancing cooperation between Bhutan and the state. A dinner was hosted in Lyonchhen’s honour by the governor.

Further, Lyonchhen met with leading businessmen in Mumbai to explore opportunities for collaboration and business expansion in Bhutan.

Lyonchhen and the delegation will return to Bhutan today, concluding their five-day visit to India.