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As China Looms, India Outreach Bhutan, Ink 7 MoUs 

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Thimpu (Bhutan): With the weather Gods finally smiling upon the Paro international airport, PM Narendra Modi Friday landed in Bhutan for a 2-day state visit that saw him announcing India’s decision to double assistance for the Himalayan State’s 13th five-year-plan from Rs 5000 crore to Rs 10000 crore.

The joint statement used the word Bharat in place of India. India and Bhutan also signed 7 MoUs and agreements, while initiating another for rail links between the two countries.

Earlier to this, both leaders held discussions on various aspects of the multi- faceted bilateral relations and forged an understanding to further enhance cooperation in sectors such as renewable energy, agriculture, youth exchange, environment and forestry, and tourism.

Here are the lists of MoUs/Agreement/Plan of Action:

1. MoU on general supply of Petroleum, Oil, Lubricants (POL) and related products from India to Bhutan

2. Agreement for recognition of official control exercised by Bhutan Food And Drug Authority (BFDA) by Food Safety and Standards Authority Of India (FSSAI)

3. MoU on cooperation in the field of Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation measures

4. MoU on cooperation in Sports and Youth

5. MoU on cooperation concerning sharing reference standard, pharmacopoeia, vigilance and testing of medicinal products

6. Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) on Space Cooperation

7. Renewal of MoU on Peering Arrangement between National Knowledge Network of India (NKN) and Druk Research And Education Network of Bhutan

In addition, both sides have also agreed on and initialled the text of the MoU on Establishment of Rail Links between India and Bhutan.- The MoU provides for establishment of two proposed rail links between India and Bhutan, including the Kokrajhar-Gelephu rail link and Banarhat-Samtse rail link and their implementation modalities.

India and Bhutan enjoy long-standing and exceptional ties characterised by utmost trust, goodwill, and mutual understanding at all levels.

India’s Bhutan outreach comes also in the middle of efforts by China, which wants to resolve the border issue with Bhutan and open an embassy there, to reach out to the new government in Thimphu. 

The PM was presented with the Order of Druk Gyalpo, Bhutan’s  highest civilian honour that was conferred on him in 2021, by the king who said India’s future is bright with Modi at the helm. 

“It is with great humility that I accept the Order of the Druk Gyalpo. I am grateful to HM the King of Bhutan for presenting the Award. I dedicate it to the 140 crore people of India. I am also confident that India-Bhutan relations will keep growing and benefit our citizens,” Mr. Modi wrote in a post on X on Friday night.

The first foreign national to receive that honour, Modi had committed to stepping up Plan support for Bhutan during Tobgay’s visit to India last week. 

Meanwhile minister of external affairs for India Dr. S Jaishankar also congratulated PM Modi and said, “Congratulate PM Narendra Modi ji on being conferred the Order of the Druk Gyalpo, Bhutan’s highest civilian decoration, by His Majesty the King of Bhutan. That PM Modi is the first foreign leader to be conferred this high distinction is a reflection both of his personal stature and our unique relationship. This decision by His Majesty further strengthens the India-Bhutan bonds of friendship and celebrates the exceptional India-Bhutan ties.”

On his last day of his Bhutan Visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated a modern hospital built with Indian assistance in Bhutan’s capital Thimphu. He was joined by his Bhutanese counterpart Tshering Tobgay in inaugurating the Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Mother and Child Hospital in Thimphu.   

The hospital is a Bhutan-India friendship project dedicated to the people of the Himalayan kingdom.

India and Bhutan established diplomatic relations in 1968.

The basic framework of India- Bhutan relations has been the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed in 1949 between the two countries, which was revised in February 2007.

Dr. M Shahid Siddiqui (PhD), Follow via X (Twitter) @shahidsiddiqui

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