China reaches out to Bhutan with an official tour; Does India have a reason to be afraid?

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) shakes hands with Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lotay Tshering prior to a meeting in New Delhi on December 28, 2018.PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images

China is trying to reach out to Bhutan yet again with the Chinese Ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui visiting the capital city of Thimpu. His official trip began on Tuesday, January 29.

This trip might spell bad news for India if it begins bilateral talks between the two countries since Bhutan might start depending more on China for financial assistance.

Until now, India has been Bhutan’s supporter by helping them with developmental programmes in the Himalayan country’s 12th five-year plan. In December 2018, India also provided financial assistance of Rs 4,500 crore to the country. In addition to this, Rs 400 crore has also been promised as Trade Support Facility over a period of five years.

However, with the monetary and political strength of a big player like China in the picture, India’s position might seem slightly shaky. 

Luo’s delegation to Thimpu includes cultural artists who will perform on the Chinese Spring Festival.

In Bhutan’s 12th five-year plan, hydroelectric power was also included, which India supports 100 per cent by importing it from the Himalayan nation. However, a Times of India article states that Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lotay Tshering is looking to rely less on this source of power. This will prove disadvantageous to India since part of the country’s electricity is sourced from Bhutan.

Bhutan prime minister Lotay Tshering

Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay TsheringDIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty Images

Tshering, in his campaign manifesto, had mentioned that India’s trade with Bhutan added up to 80 per cent of the country’s accounts. However, it added that hydropower may not be advantageous to the climate.

“We acknowledge the central role of hydropower sector in our economy, however, since it is a climate sensitive sector and considering possible geo-climatic hazards in future, it would be unwise to hinge the country’s economy solely on a single sector,” the Tshering’s manifesto had said.

The manifesto also added that hydropower does not open a lot of employment opportunities for the youth of the country.

In a previous visit to Thimpu in 2018, China had discussed the problems Bhutan faced on its borders. It also went on to try and convince the country to join its ‘Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)’.

While India’s relations with China has improved post-Dokhlam, the country must still remain wary of Bhutan’s relations with China.





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