Modi’s Bhutan visit commences: Top civilian award, bilateral talks await

Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarked on a significant two-day visit to Bhutan on Friday, marking his first official trip to the Himalayan nation since its new government assumed office. The visit holds particular significance as PM Modi is set to be conferred with Bhutan’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Druk Gyalpo, underscoring his efforts to strengthen bilateral relations. Originally planned for Thursday, inclement weather conditions necessitated a postponement of the trip.

Scheduled activities include discussions aimed at bolstering the longstanding partnership between India and Bhutan. Expressing anticipation ahead of his visit, the prime minister conveyed via social media, “On the way to Bhutan, where I will be attending various programmes aimed at further cementing the India-Bhutan partnership. I look forward to talks with Majesty the King of Bhutan, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay.”

This visit marks PM Modi’s first since the announcement of the prestigious award in 2021, recognising his contributions to enhancing India-Bhutan ties, notably through the provision of Covid-19 vaccines in 2021.

The timing of PM Modi’s visit, closely following Bhutan PM Tshering Tobgay’s recent trip to Delhi, underscores India’s commitment to its “neighborhood first” policy. Despite the convention of refraining from bilateral visits post-scheduling of election dates, the initiative reaffirms India’s enduring support for Bhutan.

Discussions during the visit are anticipated to address various issues, including progress in Bhutan-China boundary talks, particularly concerning disputed regions such as Doklam and Sakteng. India’s stance on construction projects near Bhutan’s border with China, as well as Bhutan’s 13th Five Year Plan and developmental projects, will likely be key points of discussion.

India’s commitment to bolstering Bhutan’s infrastructure, connectivity, and socio-economic development was reiterated in a joint statement issued ahead of the visit. PM Modi expressed appreciation for Bhutan’s ambitious projects, such as the Gelephu Mindfulness City, highlighting the potential for enhanced economic cooperation and regional prosperity.

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