India and Bhutan will try to completely tide over last year’s acrimony over fuel subsidy during King of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck’s five-day official visit beginning Monday.
This is the King’s second visit to the country in the last 12 months. He had agreed to be the Chief Guest at last year’s Republic Day celebrations after the Ruler of Oman, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, pulled out citing previous engagements.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said he will be first foreign Head of State to stay at the renovated Dwarka suite in Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The King has been a frequent visitor to the country as he studied here. Monday’s visit — his first after Bhutan’s general elections — is at the invitation of President Pranab Mukherjee.
India had got drawn into a controversy over suspension of subsidy to Bhutan on some petroleum products between the first and second rounds of its elections. The subsequent hardship to people became an election issue and contributed to the defeat of the then Prime Minister, Jigme Thinley.
Since then, India has been rapidly rebuilding its ties with Bhutan. Sujatha Singh, on her first visit to Thimphu last August after taking over as the Foreign Secretary, was joined by National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon to give some heft to the first meeting with the new Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay.
Significantly, the King’s delegation also includes the Foreign Minister, the Home Minister and the Economic Affairs Minister.
Apart from meeting his friends and acquaintances here, the King will interact with the top Indian leadership including the President, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, the National Security Adviser and the Foreign Secretary.
“His visit will contribute to further strengthening the close relations between our two countries,” said an MEA news release.
India contributes a significant amount to Bhutan’s development expenditure and also helps it earn substantial revenue through the sale of electricity. India in turn is satisfied with Bhutan’s cooperation in checking the activities of insurgent groups trying to base themselves in southern Bhutan.