A celebration of friendship, Mr. Modi’s visit to Bhutan

While Bhutan is important to India because of the friendship between the two countries, lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay said, Bhutan’s future is closely linked with that of India, particularly when it comes to the economy.

That Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes Bhutan and the region seriously, was the message lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay took from the Indian prime minister’s address to the joint session of Parliament yesterday in Thimphu.

“He wants to make sure that there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that Bhutan is very important for India and important because we’re close friends,” lyonchhoen said at a press conference last evening. “I think the fact that he chose Bhutan as his first visit abroad aptly proves the point.”
For India and Bhutan, Prime Minister Modi’s two-day state visit was a celebration of friendship between the two countries, one where both the countries did not consider any political benefit or economic gains, lyonchhoen said.

Both prime minsters also highlighted the impact of India’s prosperity in the region in their statements. Prime Minister Modi, in his address, said only a strong and prosperous India can help alleviate the problems that its neighbours faced, while lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay said that, if India prospers, Bhutan should prosper.

“As a small landlocked country, it’s difficult for Bhutan to prosper in isolation,” lyonchhoen said. “India’s prosperity will impact Bhutan too, and we need to work hard, to prepare ourselves for that prosperity, to ensure that we can also leverage on India’s prosperity to become even more prosperous ourselves.”

Prime Minister Modi, who addressed in Hindi ,also spoke about the large share of budget Bhutan allocated to education, and said that this reflected Bhutan’s investment for the future.

India, he said, was keen to make a contribution to this investment, and announced to double the Nehru-Wangchuck scholarship to Rs 20M a year. The government of India would also provide grant assistance to establish a digital section/e-library at the National Library of Bhutan and in all 20 districts across the country.

A Bhutan-India joint press statement stated that the two governments recalled the free trade arrangement and the expanding bilateral trade between the two countries.

“The government of India conveyed its decision to exempt Bhutan from any ban or quantitative restrictions on exports of milk powder, wheat, edible oil, pulses and non-basmati rice.”
The joint statement also stated that the two countries agreed to continue with their close coordination and cooperation with each other on issues relating to their national interests, and not allow each other’s territory to be used for interests inimical to the other.

To take the relationship further, Prime Minister Modi suggested the Himalayan states in India, along with Bhutan and perhaps Nepal, could hold a sports meet annually to connect people and contribute to happiness. He said India and Bhutan could together develop a tourism circuit, combining India’s northeastern states and Bhutan because, according to him, “Terrorism divides; tourism unites.”
Opposition leader (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho, who also called on Prime Minister Modi said the Indian Prime Minister’s address was inspiring and as relevant to a common man on the street as it was to world leaders. “I am particularly impressed by his grasp of contemporary issues and challenges that we are facing at the national, regional and global scales.”

India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj also called a press conference yesterday, to convey the Indian delegation’s satisfaction on the successful visit of Prime Minister Modi’s visit.

“The prime minister affirmed that all commitments made by the last government will be fulfilled in to-to,” she said. “The commitments weren’t made by the previous government to the present government; it’s always made by one country to the other country and, therefore, we’ll fulfill in to-to whatever commitments India has made to Bhutan.”

As Prime Minister Modi is seen as a doer and one who applies the mantra of skill, scale and speed in everything he does, Sushma Swaraj said, the pace of hydropower development between the two countries would now gain speed.

Similar to the statement Prime Minister Modi made of a strong and prosperous India being in favour of SAARC countries, the external affairs minister said their government’s vision is also of a prosperous and stable government in its neighbours, who are also in favour of India.”

His Majesty The King hosted a luncheon at the Grand Kuenra of Tashichhodzong in honour of the Indian Prime Minister yesterday. His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Their Majesties the Gyalyums, Their Royal Highnesses the Princesses and Princes also graced the luncheon, where the cabinet ministers, members of the opposition, and senior government officials from Bhutan were also invited.

The luncheon was the final programme in Prime Minister Modi’s two-day visit to Bhutan, a country whose friendship with India, he said, was like milk and water – inseparable. By Sonam Pelden | Kuensel |




PM's departure

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