In line with India’s Neighbourhood First policy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be heading to Bhutan later this month. The two countries are celebrating the golden anniversary of diplomatic ties.
While this is Modi’s first visit to that country after assuming office for the second term, this two-day visit from Aug 17 is also the first after the India-China 2017 military standoff at Doklam that was triggered by an intrusion by Chinese troops into territory. In fact, in 2014, Bhutan was the first destination in the neighbourhood where Modi visited after becoming Prime Minister in 2014.
Though the dates have to be formally announced, the government of Bhutan is already getting ready to welcome Prime Minister Modi, where besides major announcements; a few MoUs are expected to be inked at the end of talks between the two leaders.
Besides discussing Bhutan’s five-year plan, leaders of both countries will also review both the bilateral economic and hydro-power co-operation. They will discuss the progress made in the implementation of the on-going India-assisted-hydro-electric projects in Bhutan.
“Neighbourhood First’’ and `Act East’ policy has been Modi’s focus and that is whey after the major victory in General Elections, for the swearing-in ceremony, leaders of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, a South and Southeast Asian economic grouping, were invited. Bhutan’s Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering had represented Bhutan at the swearing-in on May 30.
After being sworn in as the external affairs minister S Jaishankar had chosen to visit Bhutan first.
Though China is gradually trying to make inroads in Bhutan, for India that country is a key partner in various projects involving hydropower sector. As has been reported by Financial Express Online earlier, last December, Prime Minister Lotay Tshering had chosen India as his first overseas visit after being sworn in as the prime minister of that country.
India has been playing a critical role in both that country’s economic development as well as has a major role to play in the commissioning of the 720 MW Mangdechhu hydro-power projects, which is located on the Mangdechhu River in the Trongsa Dzongkhag district.
So far India has constructed three Hydroelectric Projects (HEP) in that country which generate 1,416 MW — 336 MW by Chukha HEP, 60 MW by Kurichhu HEP and 1,020 MW by Tala HEP.
In 2014, India and Bhutan had signed an inter-governmental agreement, for the development of four more HEPs under the joint venture model including 600 MW at Kholongchhu, 180 MW at Punakha, 570 MW at Wangchhu and 770 MW at Chamkharchhu which will generate 2,120 MW of power.
Both countries have been working towards expanding their relationship in different sectors including space technology where the South Asia Satellite will provide access to wide-ranging applications such as disaster management, weather forecasting and communications.