A media release from the Australian High Commission in New Delhi, India states that Australia’s Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon Tim Watts MP is travelling to Bhutan, 15-16 May, to strengthen Australia’s bilateral relations and reinforce its strategic, economic and people-to-people ties with Bhutan.
“Building on our warm and longstanding connections, Minister Watts will meet with government, community and religious leaders and proudly mark 20 years of diplomatic relations – an important milestone in the enduring ties between Australia and Bhutan,” the media release dated May 11, 2023 says.
The release also quotes the MP saying: “this week I will travel to Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and India to strengthen our bilateral cooperation, discuss our shared strategic interests and further Australia’s trade and investment ties. It is also a key opportunity to build on our strong people-to-people links between each of our countries.”
The MP has also said that he will represent Australia at the 6th Indian Ocean Conference in Bangladesh. The Conference is the flagship forum for key partners in the Indian Ocean region to discuss regional cooperation, growth, and security. This year’s Conference theme is Peace, Prosperity and Partnership for a Resilient Future.
Meanwhile, diplomatic relations between Bhutan and Australia were established on 14 September 2002 and the Royal Government established an Embassy in Canberra in 2021. Australia is an old friend of Bhutan. Engagement between the two countries began during the early stages of Bhutan’s development process in the 1960s through cooperation in the Colombo Plan, prior to the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2002. Australia was the destination for the first batch of Bhutanese sent overseas for higher education in the 1970s. To this day, human resource development is one of the main areas of cooperation between Bhutan and Australia. In line with changing priorities of the two countries, the area of cooperation has also recently expanded to Technical and Vocational Education and Training. Further, through the Australian Volunteer Program, which has a country office in Thimphu, Australian volunteers are placed in various agencies to fill existing capacity gaps.
Her Royal Highness Ashi Tashi Chodzom Dorji, sister of Her Majesty The Royal Grandmother, was presented with the title of the Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia in Thimphu on 11 July 2018 in recognition of HRH’s distinguished service to Australia-Bhutan relations, particularly in the education sector.
His Majesty The King conferred the National Order of Merit Gold to Mrs. Catherine Harris, the former Honorary Consuk of Bhutan in Sydney, on 17 December 2019 during the 112th National Day celebrations in recognition of her services to Bhutan as the Honorary Consul of Bhutan for the past 15 years.
The bilateral relations has been boosted by strong people-to-people linkages between the two countries. In the last decade, Australia has become the most preferred destination for Bhutanese students and it is now home to Bhutan’s largest Bhutanese population abroad, with thousands of Bhutanese studying, working and living all over Australia.
Tim Watts is the Federal Member for Gellibrand and has served as the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Albanese Government since 2022.
Tim was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2013 and for a decade has served one of the most diverse electorates in Australia.
Before entering Parliament, Tim worked in the technology sector, as a Senior Manager at Telstra and a Solicitor at Mallesons Stephen Jaques (now King & Wood Mallesons). Tim worked on critical tech issues including the roll out of the National Broadband Network, the auction and distribution of sections of the radio communications spectrum and network pricing regulation. He also worked as the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Minister for Communications and a Senior Adviser to the Victorian Premier.
Tim is the author of two books, “The Golden Country: Australia’s Changing Identity” and “Two Futures: Australia at a Critical Moment” (along with co-author and fellow MP, Clare O’Neil).
Tim holds a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) from Bond University, a Master of Public Policy from Monash University and a Master of Science (Politics and Communications) from the London School of Economics.
Staff Reporter from Thimphu