India and Bhutan has always been a boon companion since the visit of first Indian prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to Bhutan in 1958 which remains a landmark in relationship between the two countries till date. During his visit, he witnessed love and affection showered upon him by every citizen of the country which left an undeniable impression on him and convinced him of invariable potential and richness of India-Bhutan relations that would come in future. His majesty third king Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and Indian prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru have cemented foundation of this relationship.
Only after this, Bhutan slowly opened herself to the world for modernization and development. India has helped Bhutan to develop at a speedy pace within a short period of time through plans and policies. One major toehold was for consistent development, Five Year Plans were initiated.
On 26 September 1958, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had a discussion for two days emphasizing on social and economic developments of Bhutan. The discussion was mainly focused on construction of road/highway between India and Bhutan, and within Bhutan. The following year, third king visited to New Delhi in September 1959 for the finalization and Indian Government agreed to render technical and financial assistance for the construction of road to connect Bhutan and India. In this regard, Bhutan’s first five year plan began from (1961-1966) which was financed solely by the Government of India. India has always been a crucial supporter to Bhutan’s five year development plan since then and till date.
After implementing the ideology of the five year development plan and with the assistance from the Indian Government, Bhutan has been experiencing a significant development socially as well as economically. There was a huge improvement regarding the basic infrastructural facilities like development of road, power supply, communication and transportation, drastic change in the agriculture sectors and animal husbandry and in many other fields.
Literacy is an all-important indicator for the socio-economic development and accordingly importance was given on that. Literacy rate began to improve through establishment of schools and institutions in the country, introduction of specialized and highly qualified teachers from India and sending Bhutanese scholars to India. Since then improvement in literacy rate has played vital role in shaping the nation as we know that Education is the foundation of development and modernization.
With financial assistance from India, many hospitals were established all across the country for better health and wellbeing of the citizen. Equipment and technologies were introduced to improve old-age agriculture which has been backbone of the nation and only through this people began to move to commercial farming from subsistence. Besides, small scale industries began to develop with time along the border of the nations.
Hydropower is one of the main pillars of bilateral cooperation. Hydropower is a win-win asset for both the nations, while India gets a reliable source of inexpensive electricity and Bhutan’s major source of revenue come from hydropower. Accordingly India has helped Bhutan with development of Hydropower Projects both financially and technically, and will be helping for times to come in near future.
Indian has been the largest trade developing partner of the Bhutan. There is a free trade regime between the territories of the India and Bhutan. Bilateral trade is conducted in Indian rupee which is fully convertible to ngultrum. Bhutan exports one-third of electricity in cheap rate to India and in return India sells petroleum in cheap rate to Bhutan. We can clearly sense from here that how strong and understanding trade relations are going on between two countries.
In order to have strong relations between two countries there must be more number of India-Bhutan Foundation project which will definitely improve people-to-people cooperation in the area of culture, education and environment protections. Bhutanese students are being provided with scholarship to pursue degree/master in various colleges/universities of India. Similarly Nehru Wangchuck Culture has been established to preserve and promote unique culture of both the nations which ultimate strengthen the relations between two countries.
Indian-Bhutan relation has been shaped by their histories, cultures and geopolitical realities. More than this, wise and visionary leadership of two countries have been a great catalyst to make this bilateral relationship a dream come true within a short span of time. Besides, trust, faith and patriotism shown by the people of both the nations have shown a great impact for the enhancement of this relationship. It is the exemplary to showcase the world that successful relation of two neighbors and those two asymmetrical countries can co-exist and prosper.
As we mark the Golden jubilee relation between two countries we always pray for our Long Live Friendship: India-Bhutan Relationship to live and prosper for all the times to come. Let’s together do it!