India will be focusing efforts on strengthening military ties with countries in the immediate neighbourhood. Army chief General Dalbir Singh’s first set of foreign tours in the coming months will be to Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
This is in line with the new government’s plans to revitalise ties with neighbouring countries.
The army chief is likely to travel to Bhutan and Nepal later this year followed by visits to the other neighbouring countries next year.
Bhutan’s significance as one of India’s closest allies was evident when Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose to visit Thimphu in June barely three weeks after being sworn in as PM.
China, which shares a 470-km long boundary with Bhutan, has unresolved border issues with the Himalayan kingdom. New Delhi had established the Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT) in Bhutan in 1962 to train Bhutanese officers.
During the years of the royal autocracy and the initial years of peace process when there were restrictions on the military’s operations, India had stopped supplying arms to the Nepal Army. But supplies have now been restored. There remains a special relationship between the two armies, with their chiefs treated as honorary generals of the other army. The visits to Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are also significant in view of growing Chinese presence in these countries.