FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Bhutan: An important regional partner for India
Updated:Jan 6, 2015
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Abhismita Sen
 
Located at the eastern end of the Himalayas as a buffer state between India and its crucial neighbours, Nepal, Bangladesh and China, Bhutan - which had only featured in Indian foreign policy as an aid receiver thus far - welcomed the first official diplomatic visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this year.
 
India’s growing emphasis on its neighbourhood through multilateral cooperation is not a sign of its shrinking paradigm of ambitions, but a strategy to pursue the same. India would have to face both its prodigal neighbours China and Pakistan in order to attain regional leadership. Though both China and India are wary of each other’s growth, none can seize diplomatic and trade relations with the other in the globalized world.
 
In this regard, Bhutan is one of India’s most crucial neighbours in its China containment strategy. Besides, there are also a considerable number of domestic considerations which make Bhutan a significant neighbour.
 
The Indian state of Sikkim separates Bhutan from Nepal in the west, Assam and West Bengal separate Bhutan from Bangladesh in the further south. Hence from the geostrategic point of view Bhutan can determine and regulate the balance of both power and terror in South Asia.
 
Insurgency is a sensitive issue across northeastern borders of India at large. The Himalayan kingdom was chosen by the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), and later the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) because southern Bhutan, where it set up base, was not properly policed and was densely wooded and located just across the border from Assam. The north Bengal areas of West Bengal run the risk of acting as a bridge between the Maoist insurgents in India and Bhutan. India’s interest is to develop the security forces through personnel training institutes and aides in Bhutan and strengthen its anti-insurgency forces. Development in terms of trade, infrastructure and better employment scopes is also a way to evade growing resentment which translates into insurgency.
 
 Bhutan’s northwest is adjacent to the Chumbi Valley, a tri-junction of Bhutan, India and China which adjoins both Sikkim and Tibet. The area is important for India as the sole link between the Indian mainland and the northeast. Infrastructure remains extremely ill-developed in Bhutan, very much like India’s northeastern states. Building of newer roadways between Indian northeastern states and Bhutan will not only reduce transport costs incurred through longer routes of the well-developed states, but also lead to the installation of security forces, thus combating insurgency in a way.
 
India has planned to assist Bhutan to set up a digital library which will provide access to Bhutanese youth to two million books and periodicals, and is also keen on embarking several cultural projects with Bhutan.
 
The Indian northeastern population has a religious connectivity with its Bhutanese counterpart through ideals of Buddhism. Cultural activities across the border can be a soothing safeguard for them. Tourism initiatives between India’s northeastern states and Bhutan across the beautiful Himalayan belt can play a key role in socio-economic progress through newer enterprises and employment opportunities, infrastructure development and foreign exchange earnings.
 
Student and cultural exchanges between India and Bhutan will not only produce newer leaders for Bhutan but also foster a sense of inclusiveness and security in the Buddhist and northeastern communities of India.
 
Hydropower has been the cornerstone of Indo-Bhutanese economic cooperation. Bhutan is blessed with several fast flowing rivers which can be excellent sources of hydroelectricity. Although, the frail economic standing of Bhutan makes it impossible to tap into the hydro resources of the country for India to a major extent, the power projects in Bhutan, set up with Indian investment and technological support, provide clean and green energy to India in exchange, in its own currency of rupees, which Bhutan uses to pay for its imports.
 
Bhutan, abundant in many endangered species of flora and fauna, has the untapped potential of becoming one of India’s major import partners for herbs and spices. On his visit, Prime Minister Modi recalled the free trade arrangement and promised to expand bilateral trade between both the countries. India has also been recorded to announce a number of measures for concessions, including the exemption of Bhutan from any ban on export of milk powder, wheat, edible oil, pulses and non-basmati rice.
 
It is theoretically believed that a nation-state pursues the policy of benign economic nationalism in order to secure its interests by appeasing its neighbors and the big powers, only when it is on the verge of decline. The Gujral Doctrine (accommodative policy with regard to India’s neighbours) pursued at a time when India was in its worst economic phase reinstates the manifestation of this theory.
 
However, India’s neighbourhood has been in a rather dynamic and proactive mode for the last couple of years and is likely to continue so for the span of the next. Thus, India’s engagement with the same can also be seen as a worthwhile decision to percolate its influence on the region, especially when these neighbours are being subjected to a lot of international attention.
 
(Abhismita Sen is a student of the Department of International Relations at the Jadavpur University. She can be contacted at contributions@spsindia.in)
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Relations between India and Peru  are united by El Niño and the monsoon yet separated by vast distances across oceans.  Jorge Castaneda, Ambassador of Peru to India, talks to INDIA REVIEW & ANALYSIS exclusively about what is bringing the two geographically-apart countries closer.
 
read-more
Indian judge Dalveer Bhandari was re-elected to the International Court of Justice on Monday as the UN General Assembly rallied behind him in a show of force that made Britain  bow to the majority and withdraw its candidate.
 
read-more
Those with a resolve make a big difference to the society. They inspire others to make the best out of a bad situation, steer out of morass with fortitude. Insha Mushtaq, the teenage girl who was pelleted to complete blindness during 2016 emerged as a classic example of courage.
 
read-more
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday said India and China have "great potential" and they could work together at a "practical level".
 
read-more
This week a major United Nations gathering on climate change gets underway in Bonn, Germany.
 
read-more

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's efforts to build India's global appeal for investors seem to have finally yielded returns in terms of the country's performance in the World Bank&rsquo...

 
read-more
Column-image

Title: The People Next Door -The Curious History of India-Pakistan Relations; Author: T.C.A. Raghavan; Publisher: HarperCollins ; Pages: 361; Price: Rs 699

 
Column-image

Could the North Korean nuclear issue which is giving the world an anxious time due to presence of hotheads on each side, the invasion of Iraq and its toxic fallout, and above all, the arms race in the teeming but impoverished South Asian subcon...

 
Column-image

Title: A Bonsai Tree; Author: Narendra Luther; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 227 Many books have been written on India's partition but here is a firsthand account of the horror by a migrant from what is now Pakistan, who ...

 
Column-image

As talk of war and violence -- all that Mahatma Gandhi stood against -- gains prominence across the world, a Gandhian scholar has urged that the teachings of the apostle of non-violence be taken to the classroom.

 
Column-image

Interview with Hudson Institute’s Aparna Pande, whose book From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy, was released on June 17.