India’s Modi heads to Bhutan to woo neighbours

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, June 4, 2014. (AFP/Raveendran)

AFP, June 15, 2014

India’s Narendra Modi heads to Bhutan Sunday on his first foreign trip since becoming prime minister, stepping up a charm offensive with neighbours in a bid to check China’s influence in the region.

The Hindu nationalist premier is expected to meet with his Bhutan counterpart Tshering Tobgay during the two-day visit to the tiny Buddhist kingdom, a month after his landslide election victory.

Modi said relations with Bhutan “will be a key foreign policy priority of my government”.

“India and Bhutan enjoy a unique and special relationship …forged by ties of geography, history and culture,” he said in a statement late Saturday.

“Therefore, Bhutan as the destination for my first visit abroad as prime minister is a natural choice.”
Bhutan’s Tobgay was one of seven regional leaders invited to Modi’s inauguration and analysts say the decision to make Bhutan his first port of call is designed to underline the importance he attaches to neighbourly relations, which suffered under the last government.

“Bhutan may be a small country but it is strategically very important and … China is on the other side,” said Ranjit Gupta, a retired ambassador whose postings included Nepal and India’s UN mission.

“If you aren’t interested in your neighbours, they’ll lose interest in you.”

With the exception of Pakistan, India enjoyed generally close ties with its South Asian neighbours in the first six decades after independence.

But critics say the previous Congress party government started to take things for granted, allowing economic giant China — which shares a border with four of India’s neighbours — to step into the breach.

– Hydropower plants –

During the visit, Modi will meet with King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, along with Tobgay, and address a joint session of the country’s parliament.

Talks are expected to focus on strengthening ties over the kingdom’s hydropower plants, which supply much-needed clean energy to India. Bilateral trade was $1.1 billion in 2012.

India, a power deficit nation with severe outages, has helped Bhutan develop three hydropower plants with another three under construction.

In April, the two countries signed a framework agreement on four more joint venture power projects totalling 2,120 megawatts, India’s foreign secretary Sujatha Singh told reporters on Friday.

“Our hydropower cooperation with Bhutan is a classic example of win-win cooperation and a model for the entire region,” said Modi, who will lay the foundation stone for a new power project during the visit.

Amit Bhandari, from Delhi-based thinktank Gateway House, said electricity to India was Bhutan’s single largest export.

“Modi’s visit to Bhutan demonstrates the importance India places on furthering this relationship,” he said.

There was friction with Bhutan when India cut fuel subsidies ahead of elections last year, although they were restored after Tobgay’s victory.

The move was seen as a rebuke over Bhutan’s moves to engage more with China but commentators say India is more likely to keep its neighbours on side by reaching out to them rather than punishing them.

During the visit, Modi will also inaugurate a new Supreme Court building, partly funded by India, while the king will host a banquet in his honour, a report in Bhutan’s Kuensel daily said Saturday.

Link to this story

G+ Comments

Facebook Comments

Live & Die for Buddhism


Maha Ghosananda

Maha Ghosananda

Supreme Patriarch of Cambodian Buddhism (5/23/1913 - 3/12/07). Forever in my heart...

Problems we face today

jendhamuni pink scarfnature

Of the many problems we face today, some are natural calamities and must be accepted and faced with equanimity. Others, however, are of our own making, created by misunderstanding, and can be corrected...

Major Differences

Major Differences in Buddhism

Major Differences in Buddhism: There is no almighty God in Buddhism. There is no one to hand out rewards or punishments on a supposedly Judgement Day more

My Reflection

My Reflection

This site is a tribute to Buddhism. Buddhism has given me a tremendous inspiration to be who and where I am today. Although I came to America at a very young age, however, I never once forget who I am and where I came from. One thing I know for sure is I was born as a Buddhist, live as a Buddhist and will leave this earth as a Buddhist. I do not believe in superstition. I only believe in karma.

A Handful of Leaves

A Handful of Leaves

Tipitaka: The pali canon (Readings in Theravada Buddhism). A vast body of literature in English translation the texts add up to several thousand printed pages. Most -- but not all -- of the Canon has already been published in English over the years. Although only a small fraction of these texts are available here at Access to Insight, this collection can nonetheless be a very good place to start.

Just the way it is

1. Accept everything just the way it is.
2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.
3. Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling.
4. Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.
5. Be detached from desire your whole life long.
6. Do not regret what you have done.
7. Never be jealous.
8. Never let yourself be saddened by a separation.
9. Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself nor... read more