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- GS 2 || International Relations || India & its Neighbours || Bhutan
Why in the news?
- The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) on Monday said that one of its oldest projects – DANTAK commemorated its Diamond Jubilee in Bhutan.
- Over 1200 DANTAK personnel have laid down their lives while constructing important infrastructure in Bhutan and have built roads into the hearts of the people.
- In 1958, Nehru visited this erstwhile Himalayan kingdom and met with the then King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, who took the initiative of opening Bhutan to the outside world, began the process of modernization, and took the first steps towards the democratization of its polity.
- About the project
- Project DANTAK was established on April 24, 1961. DANTAK was tasked to construct the pioneering motorable roads in the Kingdom. Notable projects executed by the project include
- The construction of Paro Airport, Yonphula Airfield, Thimphu – Trashigang Highway, Telecommunication & Hydro Power Infrastructure, Sherubtse College, Kanglung, and India House Estate.
- Over the years, DANTAK has met the myriad infrastructure requirements in Bhutan by the vision of their Majesties and the aspirations of the people in a symbiotic manner.
- The medical and education facilities established by DANTAK in far-flung areas were often the first in those locations. The food outlets along the road introduced the Bhutanese to Indian delicacies and developed a sweet tooth in them. The famous Takthi Canteen midway between Phuentsholing and Thimphu has been a compulsory stop for travelers.
Diplomatic relations between India and Bhutan
- India Bhutan Relations is traditionally close as both countries share a special relationship based on culture and mutual interests. India remains influential over Bhutan’s foreign policy, defence, and commerce.
- Diplomatic relations between India and Bhutan were established in 1968 with the establishment of a special office of India in Thimphu. Before this, our relations with Bhutan were looked after by our Political Officer in Sikkim.
- The basic framework of India- Bhutan bilateral relations was the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed in 1949 between the two countries, which was revised in February 2007. The Golden Jubilee of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between India and Bhutan is being celebrated in the year 2018.
- Treaty of Friendship
- Bhutan and India signed the Treaty of Friendship on August 8, 1949, calling for peace and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
- Bhutan, on the other hand, agreed to let India “direct” its foreign policy and to consult closely on foreign and defense issues. Free trade and extradition protocols were also defined by the treaty.
- The treaty’s effect, according to scholars, is to transform Bhutan into a protected state rather than a protectorate, since Bhutan retains the ability to conduct its foreign policy.
- The New Treaty of Friendship 2007
- India re-negotiated the 1949 treaty with Bhutan and signed a new treaty of friendship in 2007. The new treaty replaced the provision requiring Bhutan to take India’s guidance on foreign policy with broader sovereignty and not require Bhutan to obtain India’s permission over arms imports.
- India allows 16 entry and exit points for Bhutanese trade with other countries (the only exception being the People’s Republic of China) and has agreed to develop and import a minimum of 10,000 megawatts of electricity from Bhutan by 2021.
- In areas such as defense, border management, trade, transit, economics, hydropower, development cooperation, and water resources, India and Bhutan have a range of institutional frameworks in place.
- There have been frequent ministerial and official exchanges, as well as exchanges of parliamentarian delegations, to improve collaboration in a variety of areas.
Military ties between the two countries
- Bhutan and India have close military and economic relations. The Indian military is “virtually responsible for defending Bhutan from external and internal threats,” and the Indian Army’s and Air Force’s Eastern Commands have included Bhutan’s defense in their roles and responsibilities.
- Bhutanese security forces are also trained by the Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT).
Cooperation in Hydropower- Energy security
- Cooperation in Hydropower Bhutan’s hydropower projects is an example of win-win cooperation, providing India with a secure source of low-cost, renewable electricity while also generating export revenue for Bhutan and cementing our economic integration.
- In Bhutan, the Indian government has built three hydroelectric projects (HEPs) totaling 1416 MW, all of which are operational and exporting surplus power to India.
- Around three-quarters of the energy generated is exported, with the remainder used for domestic use.
India–Bhutan Cultural Relations
- India and Bhutan share deep religious-cultural ties.
- Guru Padmasambhava, a Buddhist saint played an influential role in spreading Buddhism and cementing traditional links between people in both nations.
- Regular cultural exchanges take place between the two countries. One of the basic objectives of the India Bhutan Foundation established in 2003 is to enhance people-to-people exchange in the cultural field.
Economic ties between the two countries
- India is not only Bhutan’s main development partner but also its leading trade partner.
- The India-Bhutan Trade and Commerce Agreement was first signed in 1972.
- Exports from Bhutan to India
- The major items of exports from Bhutan to India are electricity (from Tala, Chukha, and Kurichhu Hydroelectric Projects), base metals and articles, minerals, vegetable fat and oils, alcoholic beverages, chemicals, cement, timber and wood products, cardamom, fruit products, potatoes, oranges and apples, raw silk, plastic and rubber products.
- Exports from Bhutan to India
- Major exports from India to Bhutan are petroleum products, mineral products, base metals and articles, machinery, automobiles & spares, vegetable, nuts, spices, processed food and animal products, chemicals, wood, plastic, and rubber.
- The Agreement on Trade and Commerce also provides for duty-free transit of Bhutanese merchandise for trade with third countries.
Recent Developments between the two countries
- The two countries signed 10 MoUs in the fields of space research, aviation, IT, power, and education.
- Launched the RuPay Card in Bhutan by making a purchase at Simtokha Dzong, built-in 1629 by Shabdrung Namgyal, which functions as a monastic and administrative centre and is one of the oldest dzongs in Bhutan.
- He said an additional $100 million will be available to Bhutan under a standby swap arrangement to meet the foreign exchange requirement.
- Unveiled an e-plaque on the interconnection between India’s National Knowledge Network and Bhutan’s Druk Research and Education Network.
Significance of Bhutan for India
- Buffer state
- Bhutan is a buffer state between India and China. Bhutan shares a 470 km long border with China. Traditionally, the Himalayan kingdom acted as a buffer state between India and China.
- After China annexed Tibet in 1951, Bhutan’s importance as a buffer increased dramatically. India would vigorously resist any Chinese effort to gain power over Doklam, as the 2017 crisis in the area demonstrated. For India, securing Bhutan’s current borders, especially its western border, is critical.
- Strategic importance
- Bhutan’s strategic importance to India stems from its position. It is sandwiched between India and China in the Himalayas. As a result, it acts as a buffer between the two Asian behemoths.
- The Chumbi Valley is situated at the trijunction of Bhutan, India, and China and is 500 km away from the “Chicken’s neck” in North Bengal, which connects the northeast with the rest of the country.
- To contain insurgency in North-East: Bhutan has in the past cooperated with India and helped to flush out militant groups like the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) from the Himalayan nation.
- To check Chinese inroads in Bhutan: China is interested in establishing formal ties with Thimphu, where it does not yet have a diplomatic mission. Bhutan is strategically important for both India and China. Chinese territorial claims in western Bhutan are close to the Siliguri Corridor.
Mains model question
- The current state of India-Bhutan relations represents the essence of their relationship while also laying the groundwork for their potential growth in the twenty-first century. Explain the comment in the context of India’s strategy of putting the neighborhood first.