Bhutan and India share strong bonds of friendship, understanding, trust and mutually beneficial cooperation. The strong foundations for the exemplary relations between the two close neighbours of very disparate size were laid by India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, the Third King of Bhutan. Successive leaders of the two nations, cutting across party lines, further cemented the close and special relations and brought a new level of trust to our bilateral relations.

Exchange of high level visits has been a very positive feature in India-Bhutan relations. In the recent past, His Majesty the King visited India as Chief Guest for the Republic Day celebration in 2013. In 2014, His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen at the invitation of the President of India, were the first State Guests to stay at the refurbished wing of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. In June 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose Bhutan as the destination for his first visit abroad after taking over as Prime Minister of India. Later in November, President Pranab Mukherjee made a state visit to Bhutan. It was an unprecedented honour for Bhutan to have the privilege of receiving both the Head of State and the Head of Government of our closest friend and neighbour within a few months of each other in 2014. Earlier, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay made India his first destination after taking over as Prime Minister of Bhutan in August 2013. This was followed by his visit to attend the swearing in ceremony of Prime Minister Modi in June 2014 and a visit in January 2015 for the Vibrant Gujurat Summit. The most important outcome of such visits is the further strengthening of the close ties of friendship and exemplary relations between the two countries.

Recently, the Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay described India-Bhutan ties as a model relationship between neighbours. Over the years, the relationship between the two countries have matured, characterized by close trust, understanding and mutually beneficial cooperation, particularly in the field of hydropower development.

Geography and culture have played a defining role in India-Bhutan relations. Buddhism was brought to Bhutan from India in the 7th century by Guru Padmasambhava. The Mahayana Buddhism of Bhutan shares very close affinity with Hinduism. India is looked upon with appreciation as the land of Lord Buddha and is an important destination for pilgrimage by Bhutanese.

Geographically, as a south facing Himalayan country, Bhutan’s border to the south opens up to the plains of Assam and West Bengal. India provides Bhutan with its access to the outside world for trade and commerce including with our neighbours like Bangladesh and Nepal. India’s geographic location and size provides the key to Bhutan’s economic growth and prosperity.

Politically, it was India that encouraged Bhutan to abandon its policy of self imposed isolation and start planned development in 1961. The first two Five Year Plans were financed entirely by India and technical expertise was also extended. India also supported and sponsored Bhutan’s membership to the United Nations in 1971. India continues to be Bhutan’s largest development partner and the two countries work very closely together on issues of mutual concern and interest.

As a genuine friend and close neighbour, Bhutan looks upon India’s rising economic power as an asset for us since we stand to benefit from India’s growth and prosperity. Mutual trust and understanding has always marked India-Bhutan relations. Bhutan has been genuine in its friendship with India and India has also responded in the same spirit.

As bilateral relations like all other relationships are always a work in progress, it is important for both sides not to take the exemplary relations for granted, but instead continue to work together to further strengthen the close friendship, understanding and cooperation between our two countries.