With China on mind and accounting for the possibility of anti-India insurgents making use of the neighbour’s territory, India and Bhutan decided to continue with their close “coordination and cooperation” on issues of national interest as Prime Minister Narendra Modi concluded his two day visit in Thimphu.
The first foreign visit of Modi as PM to Bhutan, the ‘friendliest neighbour’ wedged between India and China — also saw India stepping up economic and trade linkages, including exempting Bhutan from any restrictions on export of milk powder, wheat, edible oil, pulses and non-basmati rice.
During the visit, Modi spoke of all possible areas of cooperation—from satellite technology to sporting ties, to buttress his point that “Bhutan and Bharat are made for each other.”
“The two sides expressed satisfaction with the cooperation between the two countries related to their mutual security”, the joint statement issued after the meeting said. It further added that the two sides have “agreed to continue with their close coordination and cooperation with each other on issues relating to their national interests, and not allow each other’s territory to be used for interests inimical to the other.”
India has concerns over China, northern neighbour of Bhutan, expanding its claim on the Chumba valley that would impact Indian interest in the Siliguri corridor — the gateway to the North-East.
Bhutan has been closer to its southern neighbour, India. New Delhi also wants to ensure that the anti-India insurgents groups don’t get any haven in Bhutan. Modi promised more Indian investments to Bhutan, going beyond the successful cooperation in the hydropower sector that is set to achieve a production target of 10,000 MW.
Modi also reassured his Bhutan counterpart Tshering Tobgay of India’s continued commitment to capacity building especially in the education and IT sectors in Bhutan. This includes providing grant assistance for the establishment of the digital section/ E-library in the National Library of Bhutan and in all 20 districts of Bhutan.