PM Narendra Modi’s Bhutan visit this month,talk onDoklam issue skipsagenda

NEW DELHI:Prime Minister Narendra Modi will pay a two-day visit to “trusted friend and neighbour” Bhutan from August 17, at the invitation of Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lotay Tshering.

The visit reflects the high priority that New Delhi attaches to its relations with Thimphu, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

Modi’s visit to Bhutan, very early in his second term, is in line with India’s continued emphasis on its ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’. The Prime Minister had earlier visited the landlocked country in the Himalayas during his first term as Prime Minister.

During the visit, Modi is expected to receive audiences with Bhutan King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, former king Jigme Singye Wangchuck, and hold talks with Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering.

India and Bhutan share a special and time-tested partnership, anchored in mutual understanding and respect and reinforced by a shared cultural heritage and strong people to people links, the statement read.

The visit is in keeping with the tradition of regular high-level exchanges between the two countries and provides an opportunity to the two sides to discuss ways to further strengthen and diversify the bilateral partnership, including economic and development co-operation, hydro-power co-operation, people-to-people-ties as well as share views on regional matters and other issues of mutual interest, it added.

India and Bhutan will also review defence and security matters, including the situation along the border separating the two countries, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to the Himalayan nation.

“Obviously we will review defence and security matters with Bhutan that include the situation along India-Bhutan boundary. Beyond that I would not like to comment at this stage on the specifics of what will be discussed,” Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said in response to a question on whether there will be a review of the Doklam incident during PM Modi’s visit.

He was briefing the media on Prime Minister Narendra Modi a two-day visit to “trusted friend and neighbour” Bhutan from August 17 at the invitation of Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lotay Tshering.

Gokhale added that the talks would not touch upon the ongoing discussions between Bhutan and China on the border issues. “China and Bhutan have held 23-24 rounds of talks (on the border issues. This is a discussion taking place between those two countries. We are not a part of it.”

The matter holds significance as this is the first visit of Modi to Bhutan since the end of the 72-day-long standoff between Indian and Chinese Army personnel in Doklam Plateau in 2017.

The crisis had erupted after the Chinese side tried to undertake construction work in the tri-junction area of India, China and Bhutan border.

During the standoff, the Chinese media threatened India of war if it did not go back to the original position. India however, refused to relent. After several rounds of negotiations, the two sides decided to “mutually disengage” from the site.

The Foreign Secretary added that Bhutan has shown an understanding of the Indian government’s action in abrogating Article 370 and deemed it as an “internal matter” of the country.