The visit of Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel to India from April 3- 5 will further strengthen the close bilateral partnership, including economic and development cooperation between the two nations.
India has consistently been Bhutan's top trading partner and remains the leading source of investments in Bhutan. In November 2021, the Indian government formalised the opening of seven new trade routes for Bhutan's bilateral and transit trade with India, new market access was provided for allowing the formal export of 12 agri-products from Bhutan to India, and various special exceptions/ quotas for export are also provided.
India has been extending economic assistance to Bhutan's socio-economic development since the early 1960s when Bhutan launched its Five Year Plans.
For the 12th Five Year Plan, India assisted Bhutan with Rs 4500 crore for various multi-sectoral project-tied assistance, small development projects, direct budgetary support, etc.
India and Bhutan enjoy unique ties of friendship and cooperation, which are characterized by understanding and mutual trust.
Mutually beneficial hydro-power cooperation with Bhutan forms the core of bilateral economic cooperation.
Hydro-power Cooperation provides clean power for India and economic prosperity for Bhutan with a steady stream of revenue, which witnessed positive growth even during the pandemic. Indian assistance installed over 2000 MW of capacity with 4 mega hydro projects since the 1980s till date, while 2 are under construction.
In line with our 'Neighbourhood First Policy', new market access has been opened for five agri-commodities from Bhutan to India (Areca nut, Mandarin, Apple, Potato, and Ginger), and three commodities from India to Bhutan (Tomato, Onion, and Okra).
The unique relationship has been sustained by a tradition of regular high-level visits between the two countries. It is pertinent to mention that the high-profile visits include Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit in Aug 2019; External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar's visit in 2019 and April 2022. Besides that Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra also visited Bhutan in Jan 2023.
The King of Bhutan recently had a transit visit in Sept 2022 while PM Bhutan, Dr Lotay Tshering visited India in 2018 and 2019. Foreign Minister of Bhutan, Tandi Dorji visited in 2019 while Foreign Secretary of Bhutan, Pema Choden visited in Aug 2022, etc.
Earlier in February 2023, a Parliamentary Delegation from Bhutan led by Wangchuk Namgyel, Speaker of the National Assembly of Bhutan called on President Draupadi Murmu at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Welcoming the delegation, the President said that we deeply value the multifaceted and unique friendship between India and Bhutan.
The Government of India is committed to expanding its excellent bilateral cooperation with Bhutan, in accordance with the aspirations and priorities of the people of Bhutan.
India is foraying into new avenues of bilateral cooperation with Bhutan such as Space Cooperation, Smart Agriculture, Youth and Sports, Start-ups, Renewable energy and Digital Development, to help the Royal Government of Bhutan realize its vision of prosperity for all.
The President noted that this year Bhutan would graduate from the Least developed countries (LDC) group of countries and embark on the path of becoming a High Income Economy by 2034.
In line with India-Bhutan unique and special relations, India ensured a continuous supply of trade and essential items to Bhutan, despite COVID-19-related lockdowns.
In special assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic - 13 consignments of medical supplies, the first country to receive Covishield Vaccines.
The revised Bilateral Agreement on Trade, Commerce and Transit between India and Bhutan came into effect in 2017 and would be valid for ten years.
Cooperation in newer areas beyond the traditional realms of cooperation such as new STEM-based initiatives, the establishment of digital infrastructure such as the Third International Internet Gateway, integration of Bhutan's DrukRen with India's National Knowledge Network - key cooperation in the domain of e-Learning, E-library project complementing Bhutan's efforts at digital transformation, e-learning, etc.
Apart from hydro-power cooperation and development partnership has moved into new and emerging areas with full interoperability of the flagship digital project RuPay, which has been successfully completed.
Bhutan became the second country to launch India's Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) app in July 2021, further deepening the financial linkages between our two countries.
Space Cooperation is a new and promising area of bilateral cooperation and collaboration on the development of a small satellite for Bhutan. Both PMs jointly inaugurated the Ground Earth Station of the South Asia Satellite (SAS) in Thimphu in 2019, constructed with the support of ISRO.
A Memorandum of Understanding between India and Bhutan on cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space was signed on November 19, 2020, and training of domain experts is underway.
The India-Bhutan SAT was launched into space on 26 November 2022 by ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Inauguration of Ground Earth Station during the visit of Chairman, ISRO.
Scholarships, cultural cooperation, and youth-centric initiatives have also sustained people-to-people ties.
India is the most popular educational destination for Bhutanese students -almost 4000 Bhutanese students are enrolled in Indian Universities at any time, many of whom are also provided scholarships by the Government of India.
The visit would provide an opportunity for both sides to review the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation and to further advance the close bilateral partnership, including economic and development cooperation.