India and Bhutan: Collaborative Efforts


The recent collaborative efforts between India and Bhutan, highlighted during discussions between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bhutan’s fifth King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, represent a significant step toward fostering regional initiatives through infrastructural and connectivity projects. A joint statement delineates plans for the Kokrajhar-Gelephu rail link, aiming to connect Bhutan to Assam, along with discussions concerning a rail link between Bhutan and West Bengal.


GS – 2 (Bilateral Groupings & Agreements)

Mains Question:

Examine the potential impact of the recent collaborative infrastructure and connectivity initiatives between India and Bhutan on regional development and bilateral relations. (250 words)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Significance of Bilateral Projects
  • Economic and Trade Implication
  • Long-term Implications and Regional Cohesion

Significance of Bilateral Projects

  • The economy of Bhutan has traditionally relied on hydropower and revenue from tourism, facing substantial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns regarding climate change. Moreover, a dearth of opportunities has led to a significant emigration of educated youth and professionals.
  • The proposed project by the Bhutanese king to establish a Special Economic Zone at Bhutan’s southern border with Assam, along with plans for an airport at Gelephu, holds the promise of stimulating growth and investment in the kingdom.

Economic and Trade Implication

  • The Preferential Trade Agreement between Bangladesh and Bhutan in 2020 presents opportunities for Bhutan to expand its exports of local produce, fostering increased market access for producers from India and Bangladesh within the sub-region.
  • India’s initiative in the “energy exchange” realm, aimed at integrating more suppliers of hydropower from Bhutan and Nepal, coupled with plans to supply energy to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, is poised to catalyze intra-regional growth and economic revenues.
  • The success of such ambitious projects lies in their efficient and timely execution. With challenges concerning trade and connectivity in India’s East due to issues with Pakistan and sanctions imposed on Myanmar following the 2021 coup, collaborating with neighboring countries to develop connections, markets, and energy links emerges as a sustainable path forward.

Long-term Implications and Regional Cohesion

  • Geopolitical conflicts and prevailing anti-globalization trends underscore the need for enhanced cohesion in regional groupings. Despite the obstacles, achieving greater unity in South Asia remains a challenge.
  • As India grapples with concerns regarding China’s expanding influence in South Asian trade and infrastructure, endeavors such as the Bhutan-China boundary agreement and the significance of India’s “Chicken Neck” route point to the potential to fortify security and prosperity among the involved nations, especially benefiting Bhutan, a traditionally trusted partner of India in the region.

Way Forward:

  • In light of the evolving geopolitical landscape and obstacles in regional integration, sustained efforts in fostering collaborative projects and fortifying economic ties will serve as the linchpin for establishing a more secure and prosperous regional environment.
  • Efforts to bridge the economic divide and leverage partnerships with international bodies and donor countries will be instrumental in the development and success of the proposed sub-regional hub.