Post-Doklam, Bhutanese King arrives on four-day India visit

New Delhi, Oct 31 :  Close on the heels of the standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in the Doklam region of Bhutan, Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, accompanied by Queen Jetsun Pema Wangchuk and Prince Jigme Namgyal Wangchuk, arrived here on Tuesday on a four-day visit to India.

The royal couple was received by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at the airport here.

“Special gesture for a valued friend. EAM @SushmaSwaraj receives Their Majesties, The King, The Queen and The Gyalsey (Prince) of Bhutan,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.

On Wednesday, the King will meet President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will host a dinner in honour of the royal family, a statement from the ministry said.

Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and other ministers will call on the King.

“India and Bhutan enjoy unique ties of friendship, which are characterised by deep understanding and mutual trust,” the statement said.

It said the visit would provide an opportunity to review the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation, including plans for celebrating in 2018 the golden jubilee of the establishment of diplomatic ties, and to advance bilateral relations of friendship and cooperation.

Indian and Chinese troops were locked in an over two-month standoff at Doklam plateau in Bhutan. The crisis, which erupted in June over Chinese moves to build a road in an area claimed by Bhutan, ended in August, with both sides deciding to “disengage” from the face-off point.

While India and Bhutan said that Beijing’s move violated the status quo in the India-Bhutan-China international trijunction, China claimed that it was their terriroty.

There are a number of institutional mechanisms between India and Bhutan in areas such as security, border management, trade, transit, economic, hydro-power, development cooperation and water resources.

India has set up three hydroelectric projects (HEPs) in Bhutan totalling 1,416 MW, which are operational and exporting surplus power to India. About three-fourth of the power generated is exported and the rest is used for domestic consumption.

India is Bhutan’s largest trading partner. In 2016, bilateral trade stood at Rs 8,723 crore with total imports being Rs 5,528.5 crore (82 per cent of Bhutan’s total imports) and exports recorded as Rs 3,205.2 crore including electricity (90 per cent of Bhutan’s total exports).