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Is India’s billion-dollar aid to Bhutan aimed at curbing China’s influence?

“Given that Bhutan is currently facing economic challenges, India understands its needs and ambitions,” said Aditya Gowdara Shivamurthy, an associate fellow of the strategic studies program at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

The visit underscores India’s eagerness to deepen ties with Bhutan, particularly against the backdrop of Beijing’s rising financial and diplomatic clout aimed at challenging New Delhi’s regional dominance.

During the pre-announcement election period, Indian leaders are obliged not to unveil major policy decisions or make official overseas visits, according to analysts.

Subramaniam Swamy, a former parliamentarian who is a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has criticised Modi’s visit. “It is silly that a prime minister wants to go to a foreign country when the formalities of general elections have been set. Modi is not a prime minister but an ad hoc PM,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Inclement weather in Bhutan almost derailed Modi’s visit but Delhi proceeded with its plan by postponing it by a day.

During the visit, Modi pledged aid of 100 billion rupees (US$1.2 billion) to Bhutan over the next five years, double the amount of the country’s previous five-year plan.

Modi’s trip came just a week after Bhutan’s Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay held talks in Delhi with top Indian leaders.

A highlight of the Bhutan trip was when King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck conferred upon Modi the country’s highest civilian award, the Order of the Druk Gyalpo. Modi was the first foreign national to receive this honour.

The Bhutanese royal family also held a dinner for Modi, the first Indian prime minister to be hosted at the palace.

Situated in the eastern Himalayas, landlocked Bhutan holds