India, Bhutan security indivisible: President:

India, Bhutan security indivisible: President:

Context

  • The President Ram Nath Kovind said that the security of India and Bhutan is “indivisible and mutual”, indicating a closer engagement between India and Bhutan.

Token of Thanks

  • The President conveyed deep appreciation for the King of Bhutan’s personal involvement and guidance and the support provided by Bhutan in addressing the recent situation in the Doklam area.
  • Mr Kovind added that the manner in which both India and Bhutan stood together to address the situation in the Doklam area is a clear testimony to India – Bhutan’s friendship.

Significance

  • The Rashtrapati Bhavan statement is significant as it seeks to end speculation over India’s decision to send troops into land caught in a dispute between Bhutan and China.
  • The visit by the Royal couple to Delhi is being seen as not just a personal one, but one that signals a tacit endorsement of India’s actions during the Doklam crisis, as well as a reaffirmation of ties.

A Brief History of India Bhutan Relations

  • India and Bhutan share cordial relations. It is based on a shared cultural heritage from historical past
  • As quoted by our Honble Prime Minister, India Bhutan relationship is like ‘milk and water‘. They cannot be separated
  • Bhutan signed a treaty with British India in 1910. According to this treaty, the British guided the defence and foreign affairs of Bhutan
  • Bhutan was the first country to recognize India’s independence in 1947
  • India Bhutan Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation was signed in 1949. This treaty was updated in 2007.
  • Diplomatic relations between the two countries were officially established in 1968 after the appointment of a Indian representative as a resident in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan
  • India Bhutan Trade and Commerce Agreement was signed in 1972. It provided for free trade and commerce between the two countries.

Areas of Cooperation:

Diplomatic Cooperation:

  • Regular visits between highest level Government functionaries of both the countries have become a tradition.  For example, in 2014, our Prime Minister chose Bhutan as his first country to visit after getting elected.
  • India sends foreign service officers to Bhutan to maintain good diplomatic relations

Security Cooperation:

  • Border relationship between India and Bhutan has remained very peaceful. There are no outstanding border disputes between the two countries.
  • Both the countries have conducted joint military operation against insurgents. The most notable was in 2004, the Royal Bhutanese army conducted operations against ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam)

Economic Cooperation:

  • The currency of Bhutan is Indian Rupees
  • India remains the single largest trading partner of Bhutan
  • In 2016 a new trade agreement was signed. This agreement aims at cutting down the documentation related to trade and establishing additional trading points in Bhutan
  • India has provided large scale financial assistance to Bhutan for its Five Year Plans
  • In the hydropower sector, many hydropower projects in Bhutan has been developed with India’s assistance
  • India imports around 1540 MW of hydropower from Bhutan
  • India has provided a standby credit facility of Rs 1000 crores to help Bhutan overcome the rupee liquidity crunch.

Cultural and Educational Cooperation:

  • India Bhutan foundation was established in 2003 for improving people to people cooperation in the areas of culture, education and environment protection
  • India has provided scholarships for Bhutanese students studying in Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses in Indian institutions

Environment Cooperation:

  • India is considering to involve Bhutan in National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayas. The project aims at protecting the Himalayan ecosystem that has been endangered by numerous ecological problems.

Areas of Contentions

  • The Motor Vehicles Agreement that was signed in 2015 involving Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) was blocked by Bhutan’s upper house citing environmental concerns.
  • India has been occasionally complained by Bhutan for meddling in its internal affairs. For Example, India’s decision to withdraw its subsidies in cooking gas and kerosene in 2013. The timing of the decision was few weeks before general election in Bhutan and was seen as an attempt to influence the election outcome.
  • Bhutan wants to increase its export power tariff to India that is complained for being lesser than its cost of production
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