The slackening of diplomatic ties with Bhutan over the years and the excessive attention China is now giving Bhutan are perhaps factors that have made the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the mountain kingdom extra special. (“Strong India in neighbours’ interests: Modi,” and Editorial, both June 17). The deep-rooted democratic values the Bhutanese monarchy represents have greatly aided India’s cause in bridging the gap in ties with the Himalayan country. Apart from trade and finance, education and health, it is Bhutan’s potential contribution in helping India fight terror in the northeast which cannot be overemphasised. But, China’s investment in Nepal is a worrying factor.
Ties between India and Bhutan, dating back to as early as 1961, have always been cordial, going beyond mere bilateral trade and infrastructure development projects. India has always been at ease when dealing with Bhutan.
India’s contribution to its nation-building exercise has been significant. In the backdrop of China’s chequebook diplomacy wooing SAARC countries, Mr. Modi’s visit to Bhutan could not have come at a better time than now (“China welcomes Modi’s Bhutan visit,” and “No strategic contest with India: China,” both June 17). Mr. Modi has rightly observed that a strong and economically vibrant India is necessary for peace and stability in the region.
One must applaud Mr. Modi’s strategy, one that has even his most strident critics fall silent. His focus on the neighbourhood shows that he is fast mastering the art of diplomacy. His soft, yet firm, approach in reaching out shows that he is clearly unmindful of China.
K. Bala Sundaram,
Mr. Modi’s strategy makes it clear that better ties with neighbours are more rewarding than those that lie across the seas. The new entry in the diplomatic lexicon and a Modi coinage, ‘B2B’, shows that good neighbourly relations outweigh gains in Gross Domestic Product. His address to a joint session of Bhutan’s Parliament, despite the gaffes (June 17), will go a long way in strengthening ties.
The picture of Mr. Modi waving to a sea of people in Thimphu before leaving for the airport (June 17) reminded me of the happy time we had recently after we decided to visit Bhutan in connection with my daughter’s school project on Bhutan’s “Gross National Happiness” concept. We had an unexpected opportunity to meet the former Education Minister, Mr. Thakur Singh Powdyel, who was gracious enough to invite us to his home when we wrote a letter to him explaining why we wanted to meet him and understand more about how schools function under GNH. Our Bhutanese travel agent ensured that it reached him! For over two hours and over sumptuous tea, the Minister patiently explained to us with full conviction how it worked. After the meeting, he came down personally to see us off and asked the taxi driver to look after us.