Modi visits Bhutan to woo neighbours
India's Narendra Modi yesterday held talks in Bhutan on his first foreign trip as prime minister, as he steps up a charm offensive with neighbours to try to check China's regional influence.
The Hindu nationalist premier was greeted at the airport by his Bhutanese counterpart Tshering Tobgay at the start of a two-day visit to the tiny Buddhist kingdom, a month after his landslide election victory.
Tobgay later wrote on Twitter that he had "very good discussions" with Modi, who shared his "passion for education, development and environment".
"He declared B4B: that Bharat (India) is there for Bhutan, ready to support in all our endeavours," Tobgay said.
Modi received a grand welcome with a ceremonial guard of honour, while schoolchildren in national dress lined the mountainous road between the airport and the capital Thimphu and waved the two countries' flags.
Ahead of his visit, Modi said relations with Bhutan would be "a key foreign policy priority" of his government.
The Indian premier had an audience with King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and later inaugurated Bhutan's Supreme Court, built with Indian assistance. He was expected to address a joint session of parliament today.
Tobgay was one of seven regional leaders invited to Modi's inauguration. Analysts say the decision to make Bhutan his first port of call is designed to underline the importance he places on neighbourly relations, which suffered under the last Indian government.
With the exception of Pakistan, India enjoyed generally close ties with its South Asian neighbours in the first six decades after independence.