In his first overseas visit, Prime Minister Lotay Tshering of Bhutan will be visiting India on Dec 27. Tshering, the 8th Prime Minister of Bhutan will be meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and both leaders are expected to review the bilateral economic and hydro-power co-operation, including the progress in implementation of the on-going India-assisted-hydro-electric projects in Bhutan. The two leaders will also discuss Bhutan’s five year plan.
Modi had chosen Bhutan as his first foreign visit in 2014 soon after taking over as Prime Minister in 2014. India’s plays a major role in Bhutan’s economic development and is planning to commission the 720 MW Mangdechhu hydro-power project on the Mangdechhu River in the Trongsa Dzongkhag district of central Bhutan.
India has constructed three Hydroelectric Projects (HEP) in that country which generate 1,416 MW — 336 MW by Chukha HEP, 60 MW by Kurichhu HEP and 1,020 MW by Tala HEP. Both sides in 2014 had inked an inter-governmental agreement, for the development of four more HEPs under the joint venture model which would together — 600 MW at Kholongchhu, 180 MW at Bunakha, 570 MW at Wangchhu and 770 MW at Chamkharchhu — generate 2,120 MW of power. Both countries are celebrating 2018 as golden anniversary of diplomatic ties in New Delhi.
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In November this year, Modi had called Tshering to congratulate him after the elections in that country and conveyed that India attaches the “highest priority to further strengthening unique ties of friendship and cooperation with Bhutan, which is based on shared interests and values, utmost trust, goodwill and mutual understanding.” Close on the heels of that call was a visit by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale to Bhutan and he was the first to meet the new Prime Minister of that country.
According to reports, the Bhutanese leader had said to Gokhale that he “is committed to strengthening the special bond of friendship and cooperation shared by the two countries.” Addressing a conference jointly organised by the Indian Council for World Affairs, and the Royal Institute for Governance and Strategic Studies, Bhutan, the foreign secretary had said that enhancing connectivity – in its widest possible definition – is a central pillar of our ‘Neighbourhood First’ and the ‘Act East’ Policy.
According to him because of the enhanced connectivity between the two countries, trade and economic opportunities have expanded. The year 2017 was the most difficult period as crisis had erupted in Doklam Plateau near the Bhutan, India, and China tri-junction when the Chinese army tried to construct a road in the area. This had led to a two-month long standoff between the armed forces of both India and China in the region.
The cooperation between the two countries has expanded to new frontiers such as space technology where the South Asia Satellite provides access to wide ranging applications such as disaster management, weather forecasting and communications. Both India and Bhutan are already cooperating in various sectors including education, health, information technology, and skill development.