For a New Dawn in Bhutan-India Relation

The forthcoming visit of the Indian Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, to Bhutan next week has ignited a palpable sense of anticipation among the Bhutanese populace. This state visit, on the invitation of His Majesty the King, arrives at a momentous juncture coinciding with Bhutan’s 13th Five Year Plan. Concurrently, it unfolds against the backdrop of a transformative period wherein the economic aspirations of both nations have undergone significant evolution. While India aspires to ascend as a global economic powerhouse, Bhutan steadfastly endeavors towards the realization of its vision to emerge as a developed economy, epitomized by the visionary initiative of the Gelephu Mindfulness City (GMC).

The enduring relation and partnership between the two countries has demonstrated remarkable resilience, adapting to the dynamic currents of time, technological advancements, and the evolving exigencies of the two countries. As a middle income country, aspiring to be a developed economy and with few opportunities for its citizens, Bhutan’s economic aspirations warranted a transformation. Thousands of our youth have migrated to foreign nations looking for better opportunities.

It is precisely these dynamic transformations that have catalyzed Bhutan’s ambitious endeavor to establish the GMC, wherein Indian support is significant.

The manifestation of Indian support in Gelephu and Sarpang is evidenced by the Sarpang Dzong, the Taraythang Gyalsung Center, and the Gelephu International Airport. India’s contributions have left an indelible imprint. Nevertheless, opportunities abound for India to further bolster its support, particularly in the realms of infrastructure development and the realization of a railway linkage from the Assam town of Kokhrajhar to Gelephu. This transformative railway project, slated for completion by 2026, stands poised to confer immense strategic value for the GMC.

Moreover, attention must be directed towards augmenting basic infrastructure, encompassing road networks to Gelephu and within the precincts of the GMC. The construction of several bridges necessitates substantial support, an endeavor amenable to collaboration with India. Of paramount importance is the imperative for securing air rights, underscoring the criticality of Indian assistance in this domain.

As a nation aspiring towards the echelons of a developed economy, Bhutan’s economic metamorphosis mandates a strategic diversification, coupled with concerted efforts to attract foreign investment and forge novel partnerships. India, as a pivotal economic ally, must adeptly navigate these shifting sands to discern areas of mutual benefit and sustain the momentum of economic collaboration.

It is hoped that India, in cognizance of Bhutan’s evolving economic landscape, will tailor its development assistance programs to harmonize with Bhutan’s evolving needs and priorities. Furthermore, as a principal development partner, India’s recognition of Bhutan’s unfolding aspirations is important for fostering an enduring partnership. By comprehending Bhutan’s trajectory, India can recalibrate its policies and engagements to perpetuate a robust and mutually enriching relationship, consonant with the evolving regional milieu.

Additionally, by acknowledging Bhutan’s metamorphosis, India can recalibrate its cultural and people-to-people engagement strategies to ensure their continued relevance and efficacy. This steadfast commitment to fostering mutual understanding and friendship forms the bedrock of enduring bilateral ties.

The dawn of a new era in Bhutan-India collaboration beckons, underscored by a profound mutual respect for each other’s aspirations and visions. If there is something in the international powers of corridor that cannot be destroyed or even weakened, it is the relation between Bhutan and India. The new era of collaboration is recognizing and respecting each other’s aspirations, based on the individual country’s obligations and visions, without adulterating the excellent ties that exists with suspicion.