Modi 2.0 to focus on neighborhood: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar leaves on a two-day visit to Bhutan



Keeping in line government This visit is also indicative of the importance India attaches to its close friend and neighbor. According to the official spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry, Raveesh Kumar said during the visit, the new minister will call on Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering and meet his counterpart Tandi Dorji. Jaishankar is also expected to call on the King of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the King of Bhutan. The upcoming high-level exchanges, economic development and hydro-power cooperation, are among the issues in the agenda of talks with various leaders. On Thursday, in his first public interaction, as an external affairs minister, he said India should follow a generous policy to pave the way for better connectivity with countries in South Asia. And suggested that cooperation in the neighborhood should be incentivized, and there should not be much emphasis on reciprocity. The former foreign secretary, as a minister of external affairs alluding to Pakistan said that SAARC grouping has problems and that this time leaders of the BIMSTEC countries were invited for Prime Minister Narendra Modi swearing-in ceremony. Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) has at least six members who are also SAARC members and it fits in with India Besides terrorism, according to him, SAARC has certain problems like connectivity issues and trade issues. The BIMSTEC has five member states are from South Asia – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka – two are from Southeast Asia – Myanmar and Thailand. While boosting connectivity in South Asia has been a focus in the last five year, and will be among top priorities in the next five years, he said. He said that the main responsibility is to work towards boosting connectivity as it is the largest economy of the region as it can help in strengthening ties with the neighbors and New Delhi should not over-negotiate it. He pointed out that India needs to incentivize cooperation in the neighborhood by often stepping out ourselves. Adding, that it cannot be reciprocal because India has more resources and larger capability. Laying stress on the need of different ministries working in an integrated manner to deliver results, the new minister said the Ministry of Finance has become very understanding on the issue of project funding. He also said that globalization was under stress and many assumptions of globalization like global supply chains, mobility of talent, market access were no longer assumptions that can make to the same degree. Speaking in the opening plenary session of The Growth Net Summit, he said he was part of its preparations and had never thought he would take part in the proceedings as a minister. Importance of Bhutan for India The geographical location of Bhutan provides the Chinese one of the avenues of ingress to Indias worst vulnerability – the Siliguri corridor. This Siliguri Corridor links the Indian mainland through this narrow neck. It is barely 27 km in width at a point and is connected to eight northeastern states. The country has tried to keep away from the race to rapid industrialization. It is a society that is happy with far lesser materialistic possessions. The standoff at Doklam, in close proximity to the tri-junction between Bhutan, India and China is an example that there could be stress in the relations. At Doklam, the Chinese had advanced into Bhutanese territory. India had sent in its troops to stop the Chinese from getting close to the Siliguri corridor. Leading to a 79 days standoff between Indian and Chinese troops. According to the 1949 Friendship Treaty, there was a provision for Bhutan to be guided by India in its foreign policy. This clause was dropped at Bhutans insistence in 2007 treaty. Now, the clause adopted states cooperate closely with each other on issues relating to their national interests. Bhutans economy is closely linked to India. Electricity sold to India is already its biggest foreign exchange earner. India is trying to play an important part in the development of Bhutan. Various sectors including agriculture, tourism, entrepreneurship and microfinance, education and healthcare, can be developed by India. Education and infrastructure development could also be priority areas. The trade imbalance also needs to be addressed.