Thimphu,/New Delhi Nov 8 :
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, returning from a two-day state visit to Bhutan, described it as “one of my most memorable visits abroad” and said he was confident that Bhutan would not do anything that was inimical to Indian security interests.
A Joint Statement issues at the end of the visit said: “The two sides reaffirmed the trust and confidence between the two countries and their mutual security interests…(and agreed) not (to) allow each other’s territory to be used for interests inimical to the other.”
Mukherjee, who returned to New Delhi in the evening, described mutual security interests as “intertwined” and emphasised that “both sides ahve reiterated their determination not to allow their territory to be used by interests inimical to the other.”
He said the two were close neighbours, living in harmony in each other, coordinated their approaches in line with each others’ needs and concerns and, remarked pointedly, that “our relationship serves as a model to the rest of South Asia and the world.”
He said he was impressed by the remarkable progress made by Bhutan – a country of just 725,000 people – in improving the quality of life of its people while preserving its cultural identity and that “India was proud to be a privileged partner in Bhutan’s advancement and growth”.
Earlier, in an address at the Convention Centre in Thimphu before his departure, the president described ties between them as an “exemplary bilateral relationship between neighbouring countries” and said the two governments shared confidence and trust that they would remain “sensitive…to each other’s concerns and vital interests”.
In the address, attended by Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and members of his cabinet and senior officials, Mukherjee said India was ready to help Bhutan attain its educational goals, by building more educational institutions in Bhutan and participating in its school reform programme, as well assist in skill development and innovation for which the two countries had signed MoUs.
He once again underlined the importance of hydropower as a “classic example of win-win cooperation between the countries” and said while Bhutan was on its way to power self-sufficiency, thanks to this collaboration, its export of surplus power to India was helping it to further fuel growth and expansion.
The president Friday evening inaugurated the Jigme Wangchuk Power Training Institute that will train Bhutanese youth to run future projects that envisage the production of 20,000 MW by 2020 with India its biggest buyer. Four more projects have been taken up now as joint ventures between public sector undertakings of India and Bhutan, the
foundation stone of the first such project being laid by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he visited Bhutan in June.
Mukherjee lauded Bhutan for keeping its culture and human values intact, for moving ahead both as a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, and urged both countries to work together to consolidate SAARC at the forthcoming South Asian summit later this month in Kathmandu.