The Prime Minister (PM) of Bhutan, Dasho Tshering Tobgay, arrived on a three-day visit to India on Thursday. During his stay in New Delhi, both sides are expected to talk at length on wide-ranging topics including defence, security and strategic cooperation.
A DNA report quoted the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) as saying that Tobgay’s visit will give a shot in the arm to the “exemplary ties of friendship” between the two countries. The Bhutan PM will hold extensive talks with the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and will also call on the President, Ram Nath Kovind.
The situation in Doklam tri-junction – the site of a 73-day-long standoff between Indian and Chinese armies last year – is expected to feature in talks between Modi and Tobgay.
Bhutan and China are locking horns over Doklam. Indian and Chinese troops had a 73-day-long stand-off in Doklam from June 16 last year after India stopped the construction of a road at the disputed Doklam tri-junction by the Chinese army. Both India and Bhutan are commemorating the Golden Jubilee of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations this year.
The report further quoted the MEA as saying, “The visit of Prime Minister Tobgay, during the Golden Jubilee year, will provide an opportunity to both the sides to hold discussions on issues of mutual interest, and advancing the exemplary ties of friendship for the benefit of the two people.”
The MEA statement further stated that India and Bhutan enjoy close ties which are characterised by “utmost trust and mutual understanding”. In February this year, Tobgay had visited Guwahati (in Assam) for the Advantage Assam Summit and on the sidelines of the investors’ summit he and Modi had held talks on Doklam.
Just after Tobgay’s visit, the National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary, Vijay Gokhale, and the Army chief, General Bipin Rawat, had quietly travelled to Bhutan where they held one-to-one talks with the Bhutanese leadership on key strategic issues including the situation in Doklam.
At the Advantage Assam Summit, Tobgay, who was the chief guest, had stated that half a century of Indo-Bhutan friendship was an “envy of others in the region”.
The Bhutan PM who is a masters in public administration from Harvard University and known for his oratory prowess like Modi, had also stated in the summit, “To India, Bhutan is a younger sibling and to Bhutan, India is an older sibling and not a big brother.”
As per media reports, earlier in the day, the External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, called on the Bhutanese Prime Minister.