Bhutan’s Socio-Economic Development: Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently told King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan that India will always help his country’s socioeconomic advancement. This meeting demonstrated how India and Bhutan’s developmental agendas align.
Bhutan’s Socio-Economic Development
Enhanced Cross-Border Connectivity and Bilateral Ties
Bhutan’s Socio-Economic Development, Apart from endorsing Bhutan’s progress, the two countries decided to improve cross-border connectivity and deepen their connections in a number of areas, such as energy, trade, and infrastructure. Several significant agreements were reported in a joint statement following the bilateral negotiations.
Progress on Cross-Border Train Link
The agreement on the final location survey for the proposed cross-border train link between Gelephu, Bhutan, and Kokrajhar, Assam, India, is one noteworthy milestone. The two nations’ economic cooperation and connectivity might be significantly enhanced by this project.
Exploring a Rail Link between Banarhat and Samtse
Additionally, India and Bhutan have decided to investigate the feasibility of building a train connection between Samtse, Bhutan, and Banarhat, West Bengal, India. The goal of this project is to improve commerce and transportation connections even more.
Silent on the Border Dispute
Interestingly, there was no mention of any talks of the boundary dispute between Bhutan, India, and China in the joint statement. All sides involved in this long-running issue recognise its strategic significance. It has lasted for several decades.
Background on the Bhutan-China Border Dispute
Three regions are the main focus of the border dispute: Doklam in west Bhutan, Jakarlung and Pasamlung in north Bhutan. Because of its close vicinity to the Siliguri Corridor, also known as the Chicken’s Neck, a vital land corridor connecting the Indian mainland with the Northeast, the Doklam plateau is especially important for India.
Doklam Standoff and Ongoing Tensions
In 2017, the Indian Army protested to the Chinese military’s large-scale building activity in the disputed territory, leading to a 73-day military stalemate at the Doklam triangular area. A confrontation in Eastern Ladakh in 2020 and an increase in military deployment along the Line of Actual Control were two major outcomes of this impasse. Despite diplomatic conversations, tensions have continued, with the militaries of China and India stationing substantial numbers of soldiers and weapons near the border.
King Wangchuck’s Visit to India
On November 3, just after appointing a nine-member interim government to supervise the legislative election that Bhutan was to hold in three months, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck left for India. Leading the ruling Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa party, outgoing Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, voiced confidence in his government’s ability to successfully finish its five-year tenure.
2024 Bhutanese National Assembly Election
The election for the Bhutanese National Assembly in 2024 is expected to bring about substantial political change and a dynamic environment. Most people believe that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), one of Bhutan’s main political parties, is the front-runner. The PDP is well-positioned for victory because to its prior experience in governing, widespread appeal, and good ties to both the Indian government and well-known Indian businesspeople. The party’s pledge to draw in foreign direct investment is in line with India’s objectives and may persuade Indian companies to make investments in Bhutan.
Sustainable Development Fee Controversy
The Tshering government came under fire in September 2022 for raising the “Sustainable Development Fee” for international visitors from $65 to $200 per night. Nevertheless, the charge was cut in half early this year.
Importance of Strong Bilateral Relations
Observers stress how vital improved bilateral ties between Bhutan and India are to the security and stability of the region. The outcome of the upcoming elections is thought to be crucial for upholding a safe and tranquil neighbourhood and forging ahead with collaboration with Bhutan in tackling shared difficulties. Along with being advantageous to both countries, this partnership also promotes stability and peace in the region.