On Sunday, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the fourth King of Bhutan, landed in Delhi. He expects to conduct formal talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding the future of cooperation and friendship between countries. The King was received at the Delhi Airport by S. Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs. The talks between the PM and the King will take place on Monday.
The arrival of the Bhutanese King and the upcoming discussions with the Indian PM is attracting neighborhood attention because of the recent association of Bhutan and China on a border agreement. It was just a fortnight before that Bhutan engaged in a border discussion with China and signed a deal about the Beijing border delimitation process.
Reports say the Bhutanese King prioritizes discussions on the ambitious Bhutan-Assam border project. At the same time, the PM is expected to bring up the border talks and India’s concern over the problematic Doklam region. But no official details of the expected discussions and agenda haven’t released.
Arindam Bagchi, the official spokesperson at the Ministry of External Affairs, said on Sunday, “The visit of the Bhutan King will further boost the strong bonds of cooperation and friendship with a valued partner.”
The Bhutanese King was already in Guwahati before flying to Delhi. Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is the first-ever Bhutanese monarch to visit Assam. At Assam, the King conducted talks with the Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on various infrastructure and connectivity initiatives. Both the leaders discussed in detail the 57 km long India-Bhutan rail link, the first of its kind. The rail line is expected to connect Gelephu and Kokrajhar. Gelephu is strategically crucial to Bhutan as they are planning to build a high-end international airport at the location.
After the discussions with PM Narendra Modi on Monday, the Bhutanese King is expected to visit Mumbai later this week. At Mumbai, he is scheduled to meet with various industry leaders and business leaders to discuss the possibilities of collaborations in the Gelephu project.
The Gelephu project also goes by the name ‘the Sarpang District Special Economic Zone project.’ Despite being a regional hub project, Bhutan expects India’s active involvement through collaborations. The Bhutanese King is expected to announce the project and more details on December 17, the National Day in Bhutan. In July, Vinay Kwatra, the Indian Union’s Foreign Secretary, visited Gelephu. He conducted talks with the officials and is reported to have received a full briefing on the upcoming project.
According to official sources, the Sarpang Special Economic Zone will have Bhutanese characteristics, represented through various cultural and spiritual centers. Another highlight of the zone will be technologically advanced and sustainable businesses. These businesses and other service providers in the Special Economic Zone hope to provide many jobs for the Bhutanese youth. Recent reports have shown that a significant portion of the Bhutanese youth is migrating out of the country seeking employment and opportunities, and the Bhutanese government expects to retain the youth through developmental projects like the Gelephu one.