Bhutan PM begins maiden visit to India

July 14th, 2008 - 2:57 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley began his maiden visit to India Monday - his first trip abroad as democratically elected prime minister of the Himalayan country since the historic elections in March this year. Foreign Affairs Minister Ugyen Tshering, Economic Affairs Minister Khandu Wangchuck and Finance Minister Wangdi Norbu are among the 42 delegates who are accompanying the prime minister on the four-day visit to India.

“India has taken the visit at a state level and it really shows the extent of good relations between the two countries. It has been accorded the highest level of courtesy a host can show,” the Bhutanese foreign minister had said in Thimphu Friday, setting the tone for the prime minister’s “goodwill” visit to India.

India has rolled out the red carpet to welcome Thinley, who will be accorded a ceremonial reception at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan Wednesday.

He will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a wide array of bilateral, regional and global issues later in the day and discuss further expansion economic ties and cooperation in the hydropower sector. This will be the first meeting between them after they last met during Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bhutan in May.

Thinley will also meet President Pratibha Patil, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister Shivraj Patil.

A meeting with Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate and Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha L.K. Advani has also been scheduled for Wednesday.

Ahead of his meeting with Manmohan Singh, he will meet Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and deputy chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia. India’s developmental assistance to Bhutan in the Tenth Plan will figure prominently in discussions between Thinley and Ahluwalia.

India and Bhutan signed a revised version of their friendship treaty last year that modernised their ties by allowing Thimphu, which was earlier guided by New Delhi in its defence and foreign policies since 1949, greater freedom in running its foreign policy and non-lethal military purchases.

Collaboration in power sector is an important pillar of India-Bhutan ties. India has also undertaken a slew of infrastructure development projects in Bhutan, which includes building of roads in the mountainous nation of 700,000 people, which prefers to measure its wealth in terms of gross national happiness.

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