Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale briefs the media on the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Maldives and Sri Lanka, in New Delhi on June 6, 2019. (Photo: IANS/MEA)
New Delhi: Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale paid a two-day visit to Bhutan to lay the groundwork for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the close strategic neighbour next month.
Gokhale, who was in Bhutan on July 4-5, had an audience with King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, and called on Prime Minister Lotay Tshering. Later, the Bhutanese Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji hosted Foreign Secretary Gokhale for dinner.
The visit of the Foreign Secretary was in keeping with the tradition of regular high-level exchanges between the two countries, a Ministry of External Affairs statement said.
Last week, Bhutanese Foreign Minister Dorji told the media in Thimphu that Prime Minister Modi is to pay a two-day visit to the country. He also said that the itinerary of the visit would be fixed soon.
Bhutan was the first country that Prime Minister Modi visited after winning the elections in 2014.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar visited the Himalayan nation in June in his first overseas trip after assuming charge of the Ministry.
Jaishankar had met Prime Minister Tshering, and discussed ways to enhance bilateral ties with emphasis on cooperation in the hydropower sector.
The Bhutanese Prime Minister had also made New Delhi his first foreign destination after his party formed the government in November 2018. He also attended Prime Minister Modi's swearing-in ceremony in May where he reiterated his invitation to the latter to visit Bhutan.
In 2018, India and Bhutan celebrated 50 years of diplomatic ties. India is also one of the main purchasers of Bhutan's hydropower.
With China gradually attempting to increase its influence on the tiny Himalayan nation, India is careful to keep Beijing at bay, especially after the Doklam standoff of 2017 that saw ties between New Delhi and Beijing plummet. Doklam plateau is on the tri-junction between India, Bhutan and China.