Celebrating election victory, PDP vows to serve Bhutan

Indian election results will not hamper GoI assistance: PM

As the fervor of elections sweeps across India, Bhutan eagerly anticipates assurances of continued support from its neighbor and ally, the Government of India (GoI). Bhutan’s Prime Minister (PM), Dasho Tshering Tobgay, in a recent interview with the national television affirmed that regardless of the election outcome, India would uphold its steadfast commitment and support Bhutan.

The PM urged Bhutanese citizens not to be anxious, emphasizing the enduring strength of the Indo-Bhutan friendship. “Regardless of the political landscape in India, our bond remains resilient, and support for Bhutan’s development will persist,” he reassured.

The relationship between India and Bhutan has stood strong for over five decades, navigating changes in government and shifts in geopolitics. India has been a pivotal contributor to Bhutan’s development since the 1960s, funding the country’s initial and subsequent Five-Year Plans. As Bhutan transitioned to democracy, India continued its support, aiding Bhutan in achieving economic stability. The two countries have collaborated closely on hydropower projects, fostering bilateral trade and mutual benefits.

India’s support has not only facilitated Bhutan’s growth but has also assisted India in meeting its own energy demands. As Bhutan progresses towards becoming a developing economy by 2023, India remains a crucial partner in its developmental journey. Together, the two nations have made significant strides in cooperation, setting a positive example for others to emulate.

A former bureaucrat echoed the words of the Bhutanese PM, saying India’s foreign policy towards Bhutan does not change, irrespective of which party comes to power. “Apart from the Congress party, we saw the Janata Dal and the BJP win and form the government. All governments have supported Bhutan,” he said.

While Bhutan and India’s long standing relation is one of the reasons, he said that another reason could be stronger governments. In other words, robust nations with stable governments tend to exhibit greater resilience against external influence on their foreign policy trajectories. “Conversely, in weaker and less stable states, internal divisions often emerge, particularly regarding the choice of predominant partners on the global stage,” he explained.

“Indo-Bhutan relation has reached the stage where domestic politics, whether in Bhutan or in India will not affect the relationship between the two countries. We share a special and unique relation based on mutual interest and trust,” he noted.

A former journalist provided an alternative view. According to him, despite India’s status as a multi-party democracy and a federation, the majority of its political entities wield limited influence over national foreign policy decisions. “While one might speculate that the proliferation of numerous parties forming a ruling coalition could render Indian foreign policy precarious, statistical data indicates otherwise,” he said. Typically, a dominant party within the coalition, such as the BJP or the Congress, holds significant sway, while smaller parties contribute minimally. Consequently, these minor allies lack a rational expectation of exerting substantial influence over crucial aspects of foreign policy, a strategic asset coveted by the coalition leader. He also said that while members of these may be allocated ministerial portfolios, pivotal domains like defense and foreign affairs remain firmly within the purview of the dominant party.

Additionally, he said that the key lies in recognizing the pragmatic and non-ideological stance adopted by both the BJP and the Congress on certain critical issues, notably foreign policy. “While ideological disparities between the two parties remain evident, particularly in shaping the landscape of domestic politics, particularly regarding identity politics, they exhibit a convergence in their approach towards foreign policy. Unlike areas such as education, where ideological contrasts are stark, their foreign policy stance is primarily driven by national interests rather than ideological agendas,” he underlined.

A quintessential example of this pragmatic alignment can be observed in India’s relations with the United States and Russia. In these diplomatic equations, India’s strategic interests take precedence over any ideological divisions. Despite the Congress party’s historical left-leaning inclinations, pragmatic considerations compel acknowledgment of the United States’ pivotal role as a crucial economic partner, a source of vital technologies, a strategic counterbalance against China, and a home to a influential and affluent segment of the Indian diaspora.

Meanwhile, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bhutan on March 22, 2024, he announced that the GoI would allocate 100 billion rupees towards Bhutan’s 13th Five-Year Plan. He reiterated India’s unwavering dedication to assisting Bhutan in achieving its aspiration of transitioning into a high-income nation by 2034.

Polling booths across India have been opened for the commencement of the monumental general election, marking the initiation of a democratic spectacle wherein Prime Minister Narendra Modi endeavors to secure an unprecedented third consecutive term in office.

With a staggering 969 million eligible voters, this election stands as the largest exercise of its kind in human history. Spanning seven phases over the course of six weeks, the electoral process unfolds across the expanse of the world’s most populous nation.

This nationwide electoral saga carries profound significance, representing a pivotal juncture in Indian politics. The formidable right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, seeks not only to retain power but also to secure a resounding mandate.

By Sangay Rabten, Thimphu