IRS |Institute of Regional Studies

Islamabad

News Updates

10th July - 13th July
  • Bhutan PM's Rare Remarks on China; India's 'Soft Power'; Duterte's Delhi Outburst: Every year, Bhutan’s prime minister gets up in the middle of the year to present the annual report of his government to the parliament as stipulated in the constitution. This year, was no different. For Tshering Tobgay, it was his sixth and last ‘state of the union’ speech before the National Assembly is dissolved in August. With an eye on the elections, the focus of Tobgay’s speech on June 30 was improvement in the economy during the 11th five year plan, which coincided with his tenure. As expected, the report also dwelled on Bhutan’s foreign policy with the aim of “protecting our sovereignty and security to ensure that we remain independent for all times to comes,” he said. After the customary reference to excellent relations to India, Tobgay then came to China. India obviously gets multiple mentions in the annual reports due to multi-layered ties, but the current prime minister has also referred to China in five out of six speeches delivered to Bhutanese parliament since 2013. It usually follows a template of a statement about Bhutan’s “warm” relations with China, followed by the latest update on boundary talks. This formula was also followed this year, but with significant difference. “Our relations with China, the second largest economy in the world and an emerging global power is increasing and we continue to maintain peaceful and cordial relations,” said Tobgay. On the border talks, he noted, “24 rounds of boundary discussions have been held so far and both sides are committed to finding a mutually beneficial solution.” This was, of course, the first annual report following the 72-day-long standoff between Indian and Chinese troops on Doklam region claimed by Bhutan in 2017. Tobgay ended this section with a noteworthy sentence: “The government continues to take a strategic long-term view of our engagement with China to ensure that our national interests are secured.” This comment on Bhutan-China relations was striking, since mentions about the northern neighbour have been boilerplate in previous speeches.(The wire: 10.7.2018)
3rd July- 10 July
  • Bhutan’s PM visited India: Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay and his delegation concluded the three-day official visit to India and returned on July 7. Lyonchhen said that the visit was ‘very fruitful’ and the talks with Indian leaders on a wide range of issues were positive.
  • “I’m fully satisfied with the outcome of the visit,” Lyonchhen said.
    While in India, Lyonchhen called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian President Ram Nath Kovind. He also met the foreign minister Shushma Swaraj, and ministers for Finance and Railways, and Power.
  • On the final day, Lyonchhen met the president of the Indian National Congress Rahul Gandhi.
    Some of the outcomes from the visit were India’s reassurance that it will continue to support Bhutan’s socioeconomic development in the 12th Plan, continued cooperation in hydropower sector, and the assurance that a fair or mutually agreed power tariff for the 720-megawatt Mangdechhu hydropower project, among others.
Credit: Maryam Mastoor

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