Updated March 22nd, 2024 at 17:25 IST

Decoding PM Modi's Bhutan Visit and Why China is All Eyes on This

Traditionally Bhutan's foreign policy has been aligned with India, however, China has asked Bhutan to establish diplomatic ties with it.

Reported by: Apoorva Shukla
PM Modi welcomed by Bhutanese PM at Paro Airport | Image:ANI

New Delhi: As Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed at Paro airport, he was warmly received by Prime Minister of Bhutan Tshering Tobgay who referred to him as the “elder brother”. The Indian Prime Minister is on a 2-day state visit to the Himalayan nation. The visit comes at a time when boundary negotiations are going between China and Bhutan. 

Earlier the visit was scheduled between March 21 and 22, which was later postponed due to the inclement weather in Bhutan. This is Prime Minister Modi's third since he took over as the prime minister in 2014. Further, after assuming the PM's office, Modi's first foreign trip was to Bhutan. 


PM Modi First Foreigner To Receive 'Order of the Druk Gyalpo'

PM Modi received a warm welcome as he landed in Bhutan's Paro airport, with the Bhutanese people lining the entire 45-kilometre route from Paro International Airport to Thimphu which was also decked up with Indian and Bhutanese flags.




He received Bhutan’s highest civilian award on Friday, the ‘Order of the Druk Gyalpo'. With this, PM Modi became the first foreign Head of the Government to receive the honour. Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck awarded the ‘Order of the Druk Glyalpo’ to Prime Minister Modi. 

During the visit, PM Modi will also inaugurate the Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Mother and Child Hospital in Thimphu, a state-of-the-art hospital, built with the assistance of the Government of India in Thimphu. 




India-Bhutan Relations 

Bhutanese Prime Minister Tobgay was on a five-day visit to India last week, his first foreign trip after assuming charge of the top office in January. Before this, the Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was on a visit to India in November last year. As he landed in Delhi, he was welcomed by the Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar, an event which speaks volumes how crucial the partnership is. The Bhutanese King later held talks with PM Modi in the national capital. The back-to-back visits clearly indicate New Delhi's foreign policy especially with respect to its neighbours. 


About PM Modi's state visit, Indian Foreign Ministry said that it will provide an opportunity for both sides to “exchange views on bilateral and regional matters of interest and deliberate on ways to expand and intensify our exemplary partnership for the benefit of our peoples.”  India and Bhutan share "a unique and enduring partnership which is rooted in mutual trust, understanding and goodwill", the MEA's statement emphasised.


China Irritant in India-Bhutan Relationship 

The visits come at a time when Bhutan and China have been working on towards an early settlement of their decades-old boundary dispute. New Delhi has been keeping a close eye on the negotiations between Bhutan and China on their boundary row as it could have implications for India’s security interests, especially in the Doklam tri-junction, suggest observers. 


In October 2021, Bhutan and China had signed an agreement on the “three-step roadmap” to expedite negotiations to resolve their boundary dispute, four years after the Indian and Chinese armies were locked in a 73-day stand-off at the Doklam tri-junction. The standoff began after China tried to extend a road in the area that Bhutan claimed belonged to it with India backing its claim. 

Traditionally Bhutan's foreign policy has been aligned with India, however, China has asked Bhutan to establish diplomatic ties with it. The recent visit and Bhutan cozying up to India again is likely to send out a clear message to Beijing that it cannot do to Bhutan what it did to Sri Lanka and Nepal. 







Published March 22nd, 2024 at 17:00 IST