Thursday, Oct 23, 2014

Narendra Modi picks Bhutan for first foreign visit, official team to leave tomorrow to work out logistics

Prime Minister Narendra Modi shake hands with his Bhutan counterpart Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay during a meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Tuesday. (Source: PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi shake hands with his Bhutan counterpart Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay during a meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Tuesday. (Source: PTI)
Written by Pranab Dhal Samanta | New Delhi | Posted: June 5, 2014 6:10 pm | Updated: June 6, 2014 8:18 am

Keen to start his foreign tours from the neighbourhood, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will undertake his first visit to Bhutan, the friendliest among all neighbouring countries, this month.

It is reliably learnt that an official team will be leaving for Thimphu on Friday to set up the visit and work out the relevant logistics. The visit is likely to take place after the ongoing Parliament session, possibly in the third week of June.

The decision was taken over the past few days during which Modi’s tour calendar was worked out. The PM, sources said, made it known that he would want to begin his visits from the neighbourhood, both to reach out as well as a policy priority.

The choice was largely between Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh, although Afghanistan also came up for discussion. Nepal was also on the BJP’s radar given the party’s own equity in that country, the only Hindu nation in the world until 2006 when it was declared a secular state.

Also, no PM has visited Nepal for nearly 13 years and the last proper bilateral visit was in the late 1990s.

But Nepal will be hosting this year’s SAARC Summit and has suggested dates in November, a proposal that is now under circulation. Modi, therefore, will get an opportunity to visit Kathmandu soon and honour the invite of the Nepalese PM, who had made a strong pitch for an early visit when the two met after the swearing-in ceremony.

On Bangladesh, sources said, the government still has to make up its mind on crucial agreements like the land boundary settlement, to which the BJP has not extended support and has been under constant pressure from its Assam unit.

Bhutan, on the other hand, has been among India’s friendliest neighbours and enjoys a close inter-dependent relationship with India. The country’s economy is closely linked with India and despite pressure from powerful countries, Thimphu has been conscious in not taking any decision inimical to Indian interest. China, for instance, has been trying hard to open a mission in Bhutan.

India and Bhutan have various layers of interaction to coordinate on several fronts including foreign policy position.

Modi’s visit, sources said, will also signal strong support to the Bhutanese monarchy’s efforts at ushering in democracy in the Himalayan country.

 

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