Ties That Epitomise India’s Neighbourhood First Policy


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Ties That Epitomise India’s Neighbourhood First Policy Blog Image

Why in News?

  • The relationship between Bhutan and India, despite vast differences in size and population, has been characterised by mutual respect, trust, and cooperation over the past five decades.
  • This enduring friendship has been founded on principles of equality, mutual benefit, and shared interests.
  • The recent developments, including the Gelephu project and hydropower cooperation, underscore the depth and strength of this strategic partnership.

The Bedrock of India-Bhutan Five Decade Old Ties

  • Mutual Respect and Equality
    • Despite India's significant size and population in comparison to Bhutan, both nations have treated each other as equals.
    • Bhutan's unique identity, cultural heritage, and religious practices have been respected and preserved by India.
    • Similarly, Bhutan acknowledges India's role in supporting its economic development while safeguarding its sovereignty and identity.
  • Cultural and Religious Respect
    • India has consistently respected Bhutan's rich cultural heritage and unique religious practices.
    • Despite India's status as a diverse and culturally rich nation itself, it has acknowledged and preserved Bhutan's distinct identity.
    • This respect is evident in India's support for Bhutan's endeavours to maintain its cultural traditions and preserve its heritage sites.
  • India’s Respect Towards Bhutan’s Sovereignty and Autonomy
    • Bhutan's sovereignty and autonomy have been paramount in the bilateral relationship.
    • India has refrained from imposing its influence or interfering in Bhutan's internal affairs, respecting its status as a sovereign nation.
    • This respect for Bhutan's autonomy has fostered trust and cooperation between the two countries, allowing Bhutan to pursue its development goals independently.
  • Economic Cooperation on Equal Terms
    • Despite India's economic dominance in the region, its cooperation with Bhutan has been based on mutual benefit and equal partnership.
    • India has provided economic assistance and investment opportunities to Bhutan without imposing conditions or expecting undue influence in return.
    • This approach has allowed Bhutan to leverage its resources effectively and pursue sustainable development pathways.
  • Frequent Political Dialogue and Collaboration
    • Both countries engage in regular consultations and discussions on various regional and global issues, recognising each other's perspectives and interests.
    • This open and transparent communication has strengthened the bonds of trust and friendship between the two nations.
  • Security and Strategic Cooperation
    • India's security cooperation with Bhutan is grounded in mutual respect for each other's security concerns and interests.
    • India has provided strategic support to Bhutan, including assistance in maintaining border security and defending its territorial integrity.
    • In return, Bhutan has cooperated closely with India on security matters, contributing to regional stability and peace.

Ongoing Cooperation Exemplifying India-Bhutan Strategic Partnership

  • The Gelephu Mindfulness City Project
    • The proposed project in southern Bhutan represents a significant milestone in the bilateral relationship.
    • Emphasising sustainability, well-being, and environmental concerns, the project aims to attract foreign investment and promote economic prosperity.
    • India, including its business entities, is expected to play a pivotal role in the project's success.
    • Moreover, the focus on human well-being, including yoga, spa therapies, and mental relaxation channels, aligns with Bhutan's commitment to holistic development.
  • Hydropower Cooperation
    • Hydropower cooperation has been the cornerstone of India-Bhutan relations, providing clean electricity to India and revenue to Bhutan.
    • Despite successful collaborations, challenges have emerged in implementing new joint venture models for hydro projects.
    • There is a need to reassess the existing models and develop more practical and successful approaches to ensure continued cooperation in the energy sector.
  • Development Assistance
    • India has been a key development assistance partner to Bhutan, contributing significantly to its economic growth and infrastructure development.
    • The partnership emphasises the priorities of the Bhutanese people, ensuring that projects directly benefit them.
    • This approach reflects the mutual commitment to prosperity and sustainable development. 

Future Measures and Opportunities to Deepen India-Bhutan Ties

  • Direct Flights and Connectivity
    • Initiating direct flights between major Indian cities like Mumbai and Delhi with Gelephu can significantly enhance connectivity and facilitate business, tourism, and trade exchanges.
    • Improved air connectivity can streamline travel logistics, encourage greater interaction between people, and promote economic activities in Gelephu and its surrounding regions.
  • Technology Transfer and Infrastructure Development
    • India can contribute to the success of the Gelephu Mindfulness City Project by sharing its expertise in building hard infrastructure and implementing sustainable urban development practices.
    • Collaborative efforts in technology transfer, urban planning, and infrastructure development can accelerate the project's implementation and ensure its long-term viability.
  • Tourism Promotion and Business Ventures
    • Encouraging high-end Indian tourists and businesspersons to visit Gelephu can stimulate economic growth and generate revenue for local businesses.
    • India can facilitate promotional campaigns, organize familiarisation tours, and incentivise investments in tourism-related infrastructure to attract Indian visitors and investors to Gelephu.
  • Private Sector Engagement and Investment
    • India's private sector can play a pivotal role in driving economic growth and development in Gelephu through investments in various sectors, including hospitality, real estate, healthcare, and technology.
    • Encouraging Indian businesses to set up operations in the city can create employment opportunities, foster innovation, and contribute to the overall prosperity of Bhutan.
  • Socio-economic Spillovers and Regional Development
    • The success of the Gelephu Mindfulness City Project is expected to have positive socio-economic spillover effects, not only for Bhutan but also for neighbouring regions in West Bengal and Assam.
    • India can leverage these opportunities to promote cross-border trade, infrastructure development, and people-to-people exchanges, thereby enhancing regional cooperation and integration.
  • Long-term Sustainability and Collaboration
    • It is essential to prioritise long-term sustainability and collaboration in all future measures and initiatives between India and Bhutan.
    • This involves fostering a conducive environment for dialogue, cooperation, and mutual learning, as well as addressing challenges and opportunities in a proactive and collaborative manner.


  • The enduring friendship and strategic partnership between India and Bhutan serve as a model for international relations based on mutual respect, trust, and cooperation.
  • The Gelephu project and hydropower cooperation exemplify the shared commitment to sustainable development and economic prosperity.
  • As both nations continue to collaborate on various fronts, the relationship is poised to flourish further, benefiting not only India and Bhutan but also the broader region.

Q1) What are the key aspects of the diplomatic relationship between India and Bhutan?

The diplomatic relationship between India and Bhutan is characterised by close ties in various domains such as security, economy, and culture. India has been a significant ally and partner in Bhutan's development journey, providing support in infrastructure projects, education, and healthcare. Bhutan's strategic location between India and China makes it crucial for India's security interests, leading to frequent high-level visits and cooperation agreements between the two nations.

Q2) How does Bhutan benefit from its relationship with India?

Bhutan benefits from its relationship with India in several ways. Firstly, India provides crucial financial and technical assistance for Bhutan's infrastructure development, including hydropower projects, roads, and schools. Secondly, Bhutan's close ties with India ensure security cooperation, contributing to stability in the region. Additionally, Bhutan enjoys preferential trade agreements with India, facilitating economic growth and access to Indian markets for Bhutanese goods. Lastly, cultural exchanges and educational opportunities further strengthen the bond between the two nations, fostering mutual understanding and cooperation.

Source: The Hindu