It is a measure of the close ties between the world’s smallest kingdom and largest democracy that Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk has come to India on a state visit with Queen Jitsen Pema less than two weeks after they were married in a spectacular ceremony in Thimpu, the tiny Himalayan country’s capital.
King Jigme – known in Bhutan as K5, the fifth king – has been holding official talks in Delhi for the past two days with prime minister Manmohan Singh (greeting him and the queen, left), Sonia Gandhi (below), and other top ministers and officials. The president hosted an official banquet last night.
The 31-year old king and his 21-year old bride are in India for nine days, combining official duties with a honeymoon railway journey through the Rajasthan cities of Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur.
Sandwiched between the potentially hostile nuclear powers of India and China, Bhutan is a sensitive buffer state that has been fully aligned with India for over 50 years. It is therefore specially significant that King Jigme should be in Delhi so soon after his marriage and before a state visit next month to Japan. It shows that the links, which India guards jealously, will continue into the future.
Rahul Gandhi, dynastic heir to the leadership of India’s Congress Party and a potential future prime minister, was one of the few official foreign guests at the wedding (picture below), reflecting friendship between the two families.
In Bhutan, the King Jigme has the tough task ruling over a new democracy that was initiated in 2006 by his father King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who then abdicated in his favour. Earlier, his father started the policy of aiming for Gross National Happiness, which involves maintaining traditional culture, good governance, and a sustainable environment, as well as economic prosperity (he explained the policy to me in an interview in 1987).