Fundamentals of the relationship between India and Bhutan continue to remain strong.

Enjoying unique and special bilateral relations with India, Bhutan will be the first country to receive New Delhi’s gift of vaccines when a consignment containing 150,000 doses of Covishield vaccines, manufactured by the Serun Institute of India, will reach Thimphu on January 20.

India and Bhutan share unique and special bilateral relations, based on trust, goodwill and mutual understanding and characterized by close, historical and cultural linkages at the people’s level.

During a telephone conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bhutanese Prime Minister on April 16, 2020 on the COVID-19 situation, the Prime Minister had assured his Bhutanese counterpart of all possible support by India to deal with the pandemic.

In line with India-Bhutan unique and special relations, India ensured continuous supply of trade and essential items to Thimpu, despite COVID-19 related lock-downs.

India has so far provided essential medicines and medical supplies- including Paracetamol, Hydroxychloroquine, PPEs, N95 masks, X-ray machine and test kits worth over Rs 2.8 core to the Royal Government of Bhutan.

India has also entered into an “Air Travel Arrangement” or “Transport Bubble” agreement with Bhutan.

India has facilitated repatriation of over 2000 Bhutanese nationals stranded in various parts of India. Also facilitated repatriation of 14 Bhutanese nationals stranded in third countries through Vande Bharat flights to India and their onward journey to Bhutan.

As part of India’s ‘science diplomacy’ initiative for strengthening clinical trial capacity for Phase-III clinical trials of Indian COVID-19 vaccine candidates in neighbouring countries, e-training courses are being organized by the Indian government’s Department of Biotechnology for the medical health professionals from the neighbouring countries. So far three such e-courses have been completed.

On the request of the Royal Government of Bhutan, India has also expedited the release of Rs 501 cr for their reprioritized projects to meet the emerging challenges caused by COVID-19, in addition to other fund releases for the ongoing projects.

India has taken several steps at the request of the Royal Government of Bhutan to facilitate trade and transit during COVID times which includes opening of new trade route via Torsha Tea Garden (India) and Ahllay (Bhutan). New trade points at Nagarkata, Agartala, and Pandu & Jogighopa riverine ports will be operational shortly.

In October 2020, formal market access was granted for export of Bhutanese agri-products (apple, areca nut, ginger, mandarin, potato) to India. Similarly, Indian agri-products (okra, onion, tomato) were granted formal market access to Bhutan.

Further, the first plant quarantine office on the India-Bhutan border was opened at the Land Customs Station in Jaigaon, India to facilitate exports of agricultural products from Bhutan to India.