His Majesty The King arrived back in Bhutan on 10 November 2023 after concluding a successful 8-day Official Visit to India.
His Majesty visited Assam, Delhi, and Mumbai during the trip, and met with the Prime Minister of India, the Foreign Minister, and senior government leaders, as well as prominent Indian business leaders in Delhi and Mumbai. In the final leg of the visit in Mumbai, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra called on His Majesty, and Governor of Maharashtra hosted a dinner in His Majesty’s honour.
His Majesty was accompanied by advisors to the Interim Government and senior officials on the visit.
The Official Visit serves to further strengthen relations between Bhutan and India. The the Prime Minister and government of India expressed wholehearted support for Bhutan’s development initiatives, and discussions with Indian business leaders pave the way for new partnerships corporate giants in India.
In His Majesty’s first official visit to Assam, the government and people welcomed His Majesty with great warmth and affection, reinforcing the historic ties between Bhutan and the neighbouring state.
Meanwhile a Joint Statement on the visit of His Majesty The King to India by the two countries said in his interaction with His Majesty, the Indian Prime Minister reaffirmed India’s abiding commitment to its unique ties of friendship and cooperation with Bhutan and reiterated continued and full support to the socio-economic development in Bhutan based on the priorities of the Royal Government and as per the vision of His Majesty.
To take the exemplary bilateral partnership forward, the Indian side reiterated commitment to step up support for Bhutan’s 13th Five Year Plan, which was welcomed by the Bhutanese side.
The two sides welcomed export of surplus power by Basochhu hydro power project through the Indian Energy Exchange beginning October 2023 paving the way for access to another energy market.
The two sides expressed satisfaction with the progress in construction of the 1020 MW Punatshangchhu-II hydro power project and looked forward to its early commissioning in 2024. They noted with satisfaction the progress made towards speedy conclusion of the Punatsangchhu-I hydro power project. The two sides reiterated the importance of cooperation in hydropower sector, and their commitment to advancing it further.
It was agreed to extend the existing India-Bhutan energy partnership in hydro to non-hydro renewables, such as solar as well as green initiatives for hydrogen and e-mobility. The Indian side assured necessary technical and financial support for projects in these areas.
In terms of new areas of partnership, which now encompasses Startups, Space and STEM education, both sides welcomed the progress made in space sector cooperation, including the launch of the first satellite jointly developed by India and Bhutan and the inauguration of the satellite’s ground earth station in Thimphu this year. The two sides expressed satisfaction on the increased collaboration in the field of education, with emphasis on STEM disciplines. The Indian side welcomed Bhutan’s decision to join the International Big Cat Alliance (IBCA).
During the visit to Assam, Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma called on His Majesty and discussed a wide range of issues, including rail connectivity, cross-border trade infrastructure, economic cooperation, tourism, education, skill development, environmental conservation, and nurturing people to people connections.
To further expand bilateral cooperation on trade, technology, cross-border connectivity, mutual investments, education and people to people connections, it was agreed to undertake the Final Location Survey (FLS), in consultation with the Bhutanese side, of the proposed cross-border rail link connecting Kokrajhar in Assam to Gelephu in Bhutan through GoI support.
The two sides noted successful completion of the Preliminary Engineering-cum-Traffic (PET) survey of the rail-link by Indian Railways. The two sides also agreed to consider establishing rail-link between Banarhat (West Bengal) and Samtse(Bhutan).
Darranga (Assam)/Samdrup Jongkhar (Bhutan) will be the immigration check post between Bhutan and India to facilitate the entry and exit of third country nationals by land route for enhancing connectivity, and promoting tourism.
GOI will positively consider Bhutan’s request for concessional financing in the area of skill development and capacity building under the GyalSung Project.
Haldibari (West Bengal) – Chilahati (Bangladesh) rail route will be an additional trade route for Bhutan’s trade with Bangladesh.
GOI will provide bridge financing for the period between 12th and 13th Five Year Plans of Bhutan for GoI assisted projects and schemes.
There will be a suitable upgradation of the existing Land Customs station at Dadgiri (Assam) to Integrated Check Post through GOI support along with development of facilities on the Bhutanese side at Gelephu (Bhutan).
(To strengthen collaborative framework in environmental conservation, wildlife preservation, forestry under the framework MoU for developing cooperation in the areas of environment, underscoring shared commitment to safeguarding the ecological diversity of the region.
Assam agreed to allocate additional MBBS seats for Bhutanese students in medical colleges in Assam as an endeavour to ensure access to quality medical education and training to Bhutanese nationals.
The outlay under Ambassador’s scholarship for Bhutanese students pursuing higher education in India will be doubled.
The visit of His Majesty The King reinforced the long-standing tradition of regular high-level exchanges between the two countries.
His Majesty extended an invitation to Prime Minister of India to pay an official visit to Bhutan. The Prime Minister accepted the invitation; dates for the visit will be decided through diplomatic channels.