India’s Generous Aid To Bhutan And Nepal: More Than Just A Kind Gesture

Posted on August 14, 2014 in Politics

By Richa Priyanka:

Within a couple of months of coming to power, the party at the centre has made its decision to emphasize on the relationship of India with its neighbouring countries apparent. Narendra Modi’s first foreign trip, after taking his position, was to Bhutan, which shares its borders with the north eastern states of India. “Bhutan and India share a very special relationship that has stood the test of time,” Modi said before he left New Delhi. “Thus, Bhutan was a natural choice for my first visit abroad.”

Modi in Bhutan

As a part of an energy co-operation plan to meet the demands in Bhutan as well as India, a six hundred Megawatt power station will be set up by India. Modi, who describes the Himalayas as a shared legacy of the two counties, proposed to organise a joint sports festival between India and Bhutan. He also announced that the scholarship amount for the Bhutanese students will now be two crore rupees- twice the current amount.

In the future, there are plans to establish e-libraries in twenty districts in Bhutan and to start a university specially for Himalayan studies. Covering various areas from infrastructure and technology to health and agriculture, India assists Bhutan with 4,500 crore rupees for the country’s 11th 5 year plan.

The trip to Bhutan was followed by his visit to Nepal, which came off as another one of his unconventional policies lately. It had been 17 years since an Indian prime minister visited Nepal, and he promised that “this will not happen again”.

Modi is planning on providing Nepal with an assistance for the development of the country’s infrastructure with “H for highways, I for information-ways, T for transmission-ways”. He said in his speech that India was prepared to share scientific applications in agriculture, even its soil health-card initiative. Saying it wasn’t an act of charity as much as it was our duty, he has announced a 1billion dollar (US) aid to Nepal.

According to the prime minister, authorities had been directed to accelerate the completion of project report on Pancheshwar multipurpose project. “Nepal is so rich in terms of water that it can remove darkness in India. We don’t want free power, we want to buy it… A development course has to be charted. You decide (on tapping hydel power), we will be with you. You can make a place on the world stage by simply selling electricity… We will double the electricity we are giving you today. In 10 years, you will be helping us.” The work on 5600 MW project should start within an year, as suggested by Modi.

The steps taken by Modi are very good from the strategic point of view. Providing foreign aid is an important component of the foreign policy of any country and hundreds and billions of dollars are paid by countries, rich as well as poor, to other countries, by the means of foreign aid. As it goes, no country is too poor to not give aid and none too rich to not receive an aid.

Providing for an aid is often more of an investment. Buffer states like Nepal and Bhutan, that are in between India and the potentially hostile China, need to be kept in our support. These counties stop all possible warlike situations between these two countries. There have been many listed cases when these buffer states were used as a medium to cause disturbances in India. Therefore, it is very important to keep the buffer states in our support. Modi’s decision to provide assistance to Nepal and Bhutan is wise because it will help strengthen the security on borders, promote trade and communications with these countries and goes a long way.

Also, the amounts that have been allocated to these countries are too meagre, if we consider the nature of Indian economy that is large and growing. Even if the amount was considered huge, it is beneficial for India, to save it from an already existing hostile neighbour in the face of China. If India doesn’t keep Nepal and Bhutan in its support, the hostile neighbours might take it as a good chance to sweep in, and that situations can go off control.

After independence, various Indian governments, irrespective of their political persuasions, have been giving substantive foreign aid to different countries, neighbouring as well as distant. In so far as Nepal and Bhutan are concerned, they stand on a special footing, with whom India has shared rich cultural and religious relationships for a millennia. They assume added importance, as they have long boundaries with China, a country which has emerged as a potential security threat to India. China has been striving hard to spread its share of influence both in Nepal and Bhutan. It is therefore evident that, in the interest of our security as well as a long standing historical friendship, foreign aid be provided to win their hearts and minds.