India is expected to commission a major hydropower project in Bhutan.
• Mangdechhu Hydropower project: This is a 720 megawatt run-of-river power plant being built on the Mangdechhu River (which is a tributary of Manas river – which is again a tributary of Brahmaputra river).
• Other Projects between India and Bhutan: Till now, India has constructed three Hydroelectric Projects (HEPs) in Bhutan totaling 1416 MW (336 MW Chukha HEP, 60 MW Kurichhu HEP and 1020 MW Tala HEP), which are operational and exporting surplus power to India.
India-Bhutan Bilateral Relations:
• The basic framework of India-Bhutan bilateral relations was the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed in 1949 between the two countries. The Treaty was revised in 2007.
• The diplomatic relations were established in 1968 with the establishment of a special office of India in Thimphu.
Strategic Importance of Bhutan:
• Bhutan is important to India as a buffer state as it acts as a defense against China by protecting the chicken neck corridor.
• Last year, Doklam stand-off (or 2017 India China border standoff) has re-established the strategic significance of Bhutan for India.
• The trade between the two countries is governed by the India-Bhutan Trade and Transit Agreement 1972 which was last renewed in November 2016.
• India is Bhutan’s largest trading partner.
• Benefits to North Eastern States: Increased trade and commerce relationship with Bhutan will be highly beneficial to landlocked Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
Chicken’s Neck Corridor
The Siliguri Corridor, or Chicken’s Neck, is a narrow stretch of land of about 22 kilometres, located in the Indian state of West Bengal, that connects India’s northeastern states to the rest of India, with the countries of Nepal and Bangladesh lying on either side of the corridor.
• The Road ahead for India-Bhutan ties is one of tremendous potential and opportunities. Both the countries must enhance connectivity which is a central pillar of India’s ‘Neighborhood First’ and ‘Act East’ policies.