Analysis: B2B Signals To Neighbourhood
Intro:Though B2B was used as Bharat to Bhutan by PM Modi in his maiden foreign visit to the Himalayan Kingdom, he has given a clear message to the area of India’s cultural influence that “Modi Means Business”.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first visit to Bhutan is an indication that in the new scheme of things, the immediate neighbourhood enjoys priority. It has also given a hint of India’s Look East Policy to make India the dominant foreign investor across South Asia as well as the main provider of infrastructure loans, in the same way China has done in much of Asia and in Africa. In this realm, Mr. Modi’s decision to boast his first foreign visit to Bhutan should not come as a surprise.
Bhutan, the size of Switzerland and with a population of 750,000, has only recently emerged from centuries of isolation. Its first road was built in 1962 and television and the Internet arrived in 1999. It is the first country to evaluate its success based on gross national happiness, an alternative to gross domestic product, to balance modernity with an effort to preserve traditions. But Bhutan, which made the transition from absolute monarchy to parliamentary democracy in 2008, is struggling with high unemployment and a growing national debt.
India has played a vital role in its modernization, infrastructural and economic development, and with the help and support of Indian Government, Bhutan also became the member of United Nations. To reassure good will and influence in south Asia, Mr. Modi’s first foreign visit to Bhutan is also being seen as a gesture of strengthening ties with neighbouring countries where China has been making in-roads.
This visit is significant from various perspectives including the above. On economic front, Mr. Modi reiterated that though government in India has changed, Bhutan remains a priority for New Delhi and that, the Indian government will stay committed to fulfil all those promises which were assured by the past government. The Indian PM called for greater economic ties and a more responsive Indian financial assistance to Bhutan. He suggested doubling the scholarships to twenty million to Bhutanese students in India and offered help in setting up a digital library of two million books and periodicals in the Himalayan nation.
Cooperation on Hydro project between the two nations has also been noteworthy. The Indian PM laid the foundation stone of the 600 MW Khologchu hydro-power projects which is a joint venture between Bhutan and India. This project has two another units and the total capacity to generate electricity is more than 2000 megawatt. Bhutan will utilise the electricity produced by this project and extra electricity will be bought by India. Definitely, this venture will augment the economy of Bhutan.
Bhutan is a Himalayan Kingdom and India shares the largest part of the Himalaya in this region. A new
developmental model– tourism and organic farming have been identified by Mr. Modi to begin with and this development model and may include Nepal. His announcement to establish a Himalayan University bears testimony to his vision.
India is committed to stand with Bhutan's peaceful and smooth transition to a democratic constitutional monarchy in accordance with the wise vision of their Majesties. This is a
success story. “Its orderly conduct of elections is testimony to the consolidation of its democracy,” Mr. Modi said when he inaugurated the new Supreme Court building in Hejo, which was constructed with funds from the Indian government.
Indian government is already working on several cultural ties with the Bhutanese society. Nehru Wangchuk Centre for Cultural Centre in Thimphu is the nodal office to foster this endeavour. The Bhutanese counterpart, Prime Minster Mr. Tshering Tobgay has also expressed immense satisfaction with the visit of Indian Prime Minister. He said that, the biggest takeaway from Mr Modi's visit is a reiteration of India's friendship with Bhutan. For Bhutanese, philosophy of “B2B'' (Bharat for Bhutanese and Bhutanese for Bharat) ties is significant. He also expressed his satisfaction over India's reassurance on ensuring uninterrupted food export to his country. Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Bhutan has not only been observed and debated in Indian media and civil society but in different quarters of Bhutan too. Kuensel, a Thimphu based News paper writes that there were no big surprises announced when PM Modi addressed the Parliament yesterday. But there is plenty to take home, not only for Bhutan, but the whole region, from the Indian PM’s address. The Indian PM stressed the importance of having a good neighbourhood, especially among SAARC nations. In his speech he asserted that a strong and prosperous India is necessary for the prosperity for the neighbourhood and that India’s neighbours could reap the benefit of a successful India, as it is the biggest trading partner for most of the SAARC countries.
Mr. Namkhai Norbu, who teaches media at Royal College in Thimphu and is the editor of a Thimphu based newspaper “The Journalist”, said that, “The visit of Indian PM is significant because the new government has full majority in the parliament to provide stability to the Indian polity which in turn will influence and strengthen ties with neighbouring countries.” In his view recent price hike on fuel and domestic gas during the last general election in Bhutan that consequently led to inflation raised misperception against India among fellow citizens of Bhutan that, it was the result of Indian government’s policy of the subsidy cut on these items. However, sincere promises and commitment of Mr. Modi towards development of Bhutan has erased these misperceptions. He said, particularly the Philosophy of B2B is vital which is new for us. Further, he asserted that India Bhutan relation is not simply a relation between governments; it’s infact a bond between people.
Indian PM’s to first visit to Bhutan becomes really significant as the PM of Bhutan Mr. Tobgay has stressed that “As a small landlocked country, it’s difficult for Bhutan to prosper in isolation. India’s prosperity will impact Bhutan too, and so even we need to work hard to prepare ourselves for that prosperity to ensure that we can also leverage on India’s prosperity to become more prosperous ourselves.”
-Ranvijay (The writer is Assistant Professor of International Relations at Central University of Jharkhand, Ranchi)