The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Indo Bhutan treaty on anvil

New language of Bhutan ties

New Delhi, Jan. 9: The monarchy in Bhutan has voluntarily given way to a new order. Now, in sync with that step, India is set to stop guiding Thimphu on its relations with other countries and defence purchases.

A new friendship treaty between the neighbours will be signed when Jigme Khesar Wangchuk, Bhutan’s new king, comes to Delhi, possibly in the first week of February.

The existing 57-year-old treaty has been the source of some unhappiness between India and Bhutan, with Thimphu very delicately asserting its ability to choose its own friends in a new world.

South Block sources said the treaty of friendship with Nepal might also be overhauled soon, but cautioned about comparing the Bhutan and Nepal agreements.

The sources said Articles 2 and 9 of the Indo-Bhutanese treaty would bear the brunt of the change.

Article 2, which states that Bhutan will be “guided by the advice of the Government of India in regard to its external relations’’, will be revamped to reflect the language of friendly cooperation.

Similarly, Article 9, which determines what arms and equipment Bhutan can buy after Indian approval, is likely to be relaxed.

Both articles will give Thimphu much more leeway but will continue to reflect the very strong bond it has with Delhi.

Bhutan’s fifth and newest king, 26-year-old Jigme Khesar Wangchuk, is said to reflect this all-weather friendship with India perfectly, just as his father had done for decades before him, official sources said.

The young king was in Delhi for a quiet visit only a few weeks ago, prior to which external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee and foreign secretary Shiv Shanker Menon had visited Thimphu.

The updated treaty has emerged from all these conversations. It “reflects the contemporary nature of our relationship”, an official spokesman said, adding that it aimed to consolidate the bilateral relationship in a manner that is “responsive to and serves each other’s national interests through close cooperation”.

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