A Royal visit

India’s Foreign Secretary came calling from 2nd to 5th October in Thimphu, two months after the successful resolution of the standoff in August.

From the accounts of the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister’s meeting with India’s senior-most diplomat the Foreign Secretary had come to listen more than to talk.

The meetings with the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister saw issues like hydropower, 12th plan support, CBTE and GST among other things being sounded out by the Bhutanese side.

The Indian foreign secretary also had an important audience granted by His Majesty The King.

In this backdrop the recently concluded Royal Visit to India is not an ordinary one and is significant on several counts.

It was clear from the Royal visit that there is much more heft and importance being attached to Bhutan in New Delhi, visible in almost all the entire top Delhi leadership seeking an audience with His Majesty, the red carpet treatment and also the invitation for a special state visit next year.

The India media also paid close attention, giving the visit a positive and important coverage.

One can only see a similar kind of attention being paid to Bhutan all the way back after the 2003 Operations conducted successfully by His Majesty The Fourth King.

This is also in the backdrop of New Delhi becoming more understanding of Bhutan’s own domestic compulsions like for example the non passage of the BBIN Bill in the Bhutanese Parliament.

There is clearly some change in the air. The Bhutan-India relationship is evolving and changing both due to internal dynamics within Bhutan and also due to external factors.

Within Bhutan a successful transition to democracy has brought about a more aware and also a more demanding electorate and this also involves the foreign policy front. On the external front it is clear that the South Asian neighborhood is becoming more ‘competitive’ with certain foreign powers wanting to make inroads here. This is in the longstanding context of how India’s views its strategic security vis-à-vis its immediate neighbors combined with the geographical and economic realities of South Asia.

Such pressures can make ordinary leaders and countries crack, but Bhutan led by its Kings has always been careful to make the best of any situation and take steps that are uniquely Bhutanese and in conformity to Bhutanese interests, instead of trying to fit into one mould or the other not suited to Bhutan’s unique situation.

Bhutan, in the middle of all of this, is lucky to have a very able leader in His Majesty The King to uphold our nation and people’s long term interests.

Diplomacy is the art of letting somebody else have your way
David Frost

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