Prime Minister Narendra Modi will >touch down in Bhutan on Sunday , his first international foray after assuming office, in a visit that marks the new government’s focus on the neighbourhood. The visit is a token of our friendship with Bhutan, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh said here on Friday.
During his swearing-in, Mr. Modi was personally invited by Bhutan’s Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay.
On Monday, Mr. Modi will address a joint session of Bhutan’s Parliament. On Sunday, he will meet Mr. Tobgay, King Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, his father and former King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, and other members of the Bhutan’s royal family.
Sources told The Hindu that the King had spoken with Mr. Modi on the phone after his electoral win.
On the agenda during his talks with Mr. Tobgay will be upgrading trade and energy ties between the neighbours. India accounts for more than 90 per cent of Bhutan’s imports and exports. The Himalayan kingdom supplies India with 1,416 MW of power from three hydroelectric projects, which Ms. Singh referred to as a “win-win” example of India-Bhutan cooperation. In the past year, the two countries had a fallout over Thimphu’s decision to raise power tariffs and delay in projects. These issues were ironed out at a meeting in April, which also cleared projects for 2,000 MW more of power.
Another bump in the otherwise smooth road of historical relations between India and Bhutan was a meeting between the former Bhutan Prime Minister Jigme Thinley and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, where China had pressed for full diplomatic ties with its Bhutanese neighbour. The move was abandoned after India expressed its displeasure, although Ms. Singh said it was for the Bhutanese leadership to address the issue. “Bhutan is a sovereign country and it is up to Bhutan and its leadership to decide on this particular issue keeping their interests in mind,” she said.