Though Bhutan visit is imminent for every Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi’s choice to go to the Himalayan nation comes as a pleasant surprise for many while the Western nations take it as another signal of India’s long-term foreign policy to keep regional balance strictly under its favour.
Today, Sunday June 15, 2014 marks Modi’s first sojourn abroad technically begins with his arrival at Thimpu, overlooking the Chinese border, sending a signal to China and Nepal in the Himalayan region that India seeks status quo, if not rattle the border map in the near future.
The tiny Himalayan and Buddhist nation, is the closest Indian ally receiving huge sunsidies in the form of food and oil supplies, while China is busy making inroads into Sri Lanka with building ports after its successful enlisting of pertinent Pakistan support in the Himalayan region.
With Nepal moving closer to China whose aid made it the biggest foreign investor within the first six months of this year. The visit will see Modi lay the foundation of a 600 MW hydroelectric power station in Bhutan and open the nation’s parliament building constructed by India.
“Bhutan and India share a very special relationship that has stood the test of time,” said a statement prior to his departure for Thimphu. “Thus, Bhutan was a natural choice for my first visit abroad.”
While giant portraits of Modi and his Bhutanese counterpart, Tshering Tobgay, strung up along the roads, school children were roped in to welcome Modi along the road from the airport to Thimphu. “Given that India has so many competing priorities and that the newly elected prime minister could have visited any other country, it did come as a pleasant surprise,” Tobgay told The Hindu.
Bhutan, with a population of 750,000 and an area similar to the size of Switzerland, has poor infrastructure. Its mountain road was first built in 1962 and its TV came in 1999 when it began transition from the kingdom to a democratic nation. A decade later, it became the democratically elected republic but high unemployment and virtually no natural resources began plaguing its youth who moved to India or the United Kingdom.
With its current campaign for the happiness index, the nation says it should strive to remove obstacles to happiness.