Narendra Modi’s Bhutan visit will expand India’s influence in Asia

School children greeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bhutan.

On Sunday afternoon, Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed at Thimphu. A touching ceremonial welcome by Bhutanese school children awaited him. It was Modi’s first visit abroad.

Fifty six years ago Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, visited Bhutan too. But it was another era.

In October 1958, in a letter to the Chief Ministers, Nehru recalls: “After I left Gangtok, I was almost entirely cut off from communications till my return to Gangtok two and a half weeks later. I received an occasional message by wireless from Delhi. …There were no newspapers at all and I had a sensation of being in another world.”

At that time, it was no question of landing anywhere in Bhutan. The PM, Indira Gandhi and their entourage had to undertake a long trek via the Chumbi Valley in Tibet. It was the customary and easiest road to reach the Kingdom of the Dragon. India had just built a road till Nathu-la, the border between Sikkim and Tibet.

Nehru remarked: “On the Tibetan side, this road will be a much simpler proposition than the one that we have built on our side. Through road traffic would make a great difference to trade as well as to travellers. There is still a considerable inflow of goods from India to Tibet although this has gone down during the last year or two.”

 

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