Bhutan prime minister meets Sonia, Pranab

July 16th, 2008 - 9:14 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Pratibha Patil

New Delhi, July 16 (IANS) India and Bhutan Wednesday reinvigorated their warm and friendly ties as New Delhi accorded a state welcome to Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley, who is here on his first trip abroad as democratically elected prime minister of the Himalayan country. In a gesture that underlines the special relationship between India and Bhutan, Thinley, who began his four-day visit to India Monday, was given a ceremonial reception in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan before he began his meetings with key leaders of the ruling coalition.

Thinley met External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and discussed an entire spectrum of issues that imbue bilateral ties with special character. The two discussed a slew of steps to expand economic ties and cooperation in the hydropower sector. Security issues were also discussed, official sources said.

Thinley called on President Pratibha Patil and Vice-President Hamid Ansari, and conveyed Thimphu’s keenness to strengthen the relationship, which has acquired a more contemporary character after India and Bhutan signed an updated version of the friendship treaty last year.

The updated treaty allows 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.

The visiting Bhutanese leader also met Sonia Gandhi, chairman of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), and BJP’s prime ministerial hopeful and Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani.

In his meeting with Home Minister Shivraj Patil, he discussed ways to expand the ongoing cooperation in combating extremism and terrorism.

Thinley will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh before wrapping up his four-day visit to India Thursday.

With India’s energy needs growing by the day, Bhutan has emerged as a vital source of hydropower. The two countries are proactively collaborating in the hydropower power sector as New Delhi plans to assist in the setting up of more power plants in the Himalyan country.

India has also undertaken a number 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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