Bhutan and India celebrated the golden jubilee of its establishment of formal diplomatic relations in 2018. The two countries continue to share a unique and time tested bilateral relationship, characterized by utmost trust, goodwill and mutual understanding. The special relationship has been sustained by a tradition of regular high-level visits and dialogues between the two countries.
The Government of India (GoI) recently arranged for a group of Bhutanese journalists to visit India on a familiarization tour. According to the Joint Secretary (North), Ministry of External Affair, India, Piyush Srivastava, GoI has consistently supported the socio-economic development of Bhutan.
Hydro-power cooperation between the two countries is an example of win-win cooperation. India is Bhutan’s largest trading partner. In 2018, total bilateral trade between the two countries stood at Nu 92.27 billion (bn).
“GoI has committed an assistance of about Nu 45 bn for the 12th FYP, and in addition to that Nu 4 bn as a trade support facility to better facilitate trading and economy,” he added.
He added that over 50 or less PTA projects have already started with the operation and over 200 small ongoing development projects. He said GoI is also open to discussions of adding more projects with the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB), adding that the figure may grow in the future, which will further promote the relation between the two countries.
He said, “From next year, we are planning to start a ‘Start-Up Summit’ so that we can bring businessmen and trade people from both the countries closer and promote the area.”
He said that they have moved to newer emerging areas, a contemporary space sector. “Both the countries are working for the development of small satellite for Bhutan. Similarly, we are trying a small cooperation in the digital and emerging technologies in the IT sector,” he added.
The recent thrust has been on diversifying towards more new contemporary areas focusing more on people to people exchanges, he said.
Meanwhile, he emphasized on GoI providing the technical assistance for the set up of a multi-specialty hospital.
India is still the most popular education destination for Bhutanese students, with almost 4,000 Bhutanese students got enrolled in Indian universities. Many of whom are also provided scholarship by GoI, he said.
He said. “There are vibrant cultural exchanges between the two countries. A number of Bhutanese pilgrims travel to holy Buddhists sites in India. Reflecting the special nature of the relationship, the two countries share an open border with regular exchange of travelers in both directions for work, tourism, shopping, medical care, etc.”