Wednesday, April 17, 2024

India to back Bhutan’s quest for development; PM Modi announces support of Rs 10,000 crore over next 5 years


Thimphu (Bhutan): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday assured Bhutan’s top leadership that India will stand by the Himalayan kingdom in its quest for development and that their unique bilateral ties would create avenues for greater cooperation in connectivity, infrastructure, trade and energy sectors.

Prime Minister Modi, who is here on a two-day State visit to further cement India’s unique relations with Bhutan as part of India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policy, also announced that New Delhi will provide support of Rs 10,000 crore to Thimphu over next five years.

The two countries exchanged several MoUs and signed agreements in the fields of energy, trade, digital connectivity, space and agriculture, and finalised the MoU on the establishment of rail links between the two nations.

Modi called on the King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and held talks with Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay.

“Glad to have met His Majesty the King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. We talked about ways to improve bilateral relations between our nations,” Modi posted on X.

“In Bhutan, held productive talks with PM @tsheringtobgay. We reviewed the complete range of India-Bhutan friendship, and agreed to boost our developmental partnership as well as deepen cultural linkages,” he wrote on his meeting with his Bhutanese counterpart.

This was Modi’s second meeting with his Bhutanese counterpart this month.

Tobgay visited New Delhi last week, his first foreign trip after assuming the charge of the top office in January.

Modi said the MoUs and agreements will add momentum to India-Bhutan relations.

The two Prime Ministers acknowledged that the exemplary ties of friendship between India and Bhutan are a source of strength for both partners and the region. Both sides reaffirmed their resolve to further strengthen the long-standing and exceptional bilateral ties that exist between the two countries, a joint statement issued here said.

Modi said the relationship between India and Bhutan are as much old as they are modern and timely, adding, the depth of their relationship is both ‘B2B’ and ‘P2P’.

“And, ‘B2B’ means’ Bharat to Bhutan’, and ‘P2P’ means people to people connect,” he said.

Modi also spoke of the Bhutanese government’s 13th Five-Year Plan (FYP) and said, “Our full support and cooperation will be there”.

“In the next five years, the government of India will provide support of Rs 10,000 crore in this direction,” he said.

Prime Minister Modi conveyed that India remains committed to partner with Bhutan in its quest to become a high-income nation and the priorities of the people and the Royal Government of Bhutan.

He reiterated India’s commitment to step up support for Bhutan’s 13th FYP including to consider request for the Economic Stimulus Programme.

India’s development assistance will be geared towards the development of infrastructure, building connectivity in its broadest form which includes road, rail, air and digital connectivity, and in sectors like agriculture, healthcare, education, skilling and cultural preservation, the joint statement said.

Modi was conferred the ‘Order of the Druk Gyalpo,’ making him the first foreign Head of the Government to receive the honour.

The award recognises Prime Minister Modi’s contribution to strengthening the India-Bhutan friendship and his people-centric leadership.

“Honoured to be conferred with ‘Order of the Druk Gyalpo’ Award by Bhutan. I dedicate it to 140 crore Indians,” Modi posted on X soon after.

King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the Fifth King of Bhutan, who presented him with the honour, and members of the royal family were also present on the occasion.

“We collaborate and celebrate each other’s successes.When India’s mission Chandrayaan was successful, the people of Bhutan were as happy as the people of India were,” Modi said.

“Your Majesty, you’re taking forward the rich culture of Bhutan with a modern vision. Your efforts are promoting ‘innovation’ along with ‘inner joy’ in Bhutan.     Bhutan has given the world the concept of ‘Gross National Happiness’. I am confident that Bhutan’s ‘Mindfulness City’ will also become an inspiration for the world.”

Modi, speaking in Hindi, asserted that “Our ties are inseparable. Our friendship is inseparable. Our mutual cooperation is inseparable. And, the main thing is our faith is unwavering. And, that is why this day is very special for me.”

People from Bhutan dressed in their native wear and holding flags of both countries clapped intermittently as Modi addressed them.

Ensconced between the mighty Himalayas and India, sharing its border on west, south and east, Bhutan and India share “a unique and enduring partnership which is rooted in mutual trust, understanding and goodwill.

Modi’s visit to Thimphu came against the backdrop of China and Bhutan looking at an expeditious resolution of their festering boundary row that could have implications for India’s security interests.

India has been keeping a close eye on the negotiations between Bhutan and China on their boundary row as it could have implications for New Delhi’s security interests, especially in the Doklam tri-junction.

Earlier, Modi thanked Prime Minister Tobgay for the “exceptional public welcome accorded to him, with people greeting him all along the journey from Paro to Thimphu,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said here in a statement.

Modi also received an audience with the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, here.

The Fourth King of Bhutan extended a warm welcome to the Prime Minister, who in turn, thanked The Fourth King for his leadership, vision and contributions to the strengthening of India- Bhutan relations.

Modi was accorded a ceremonial welcome upon his arrival at the Paro International Airport where he was warmly received by Prime Minister Tobgay.

Dressed in their traditional best, the Bhutanese people lined up the entire 45-kilometre route from Paro International Airport to Thimphu, which was decked up with Indian and Bhutanese flags.

Later, a group of Bhutanese youngsters, dressed in traditional Indian attire, performed a dance on a Garba song written by Modi to welcome him to their country.

After watching them perform with rapt attention and applauding at the end of the performance, Modi posted on X along with photos from the occasion: “I am grateful to the people of Bhutan, especially the young children, for the memorable welcome to their beautiful country.”


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