Manmohan goes to Bhutan on energy diplomacy Friday

May 13th, 2008 - 7:26 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, May 13 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will Friday go to Bhutan on a two-day visit, the first by an Indian prime minister to the youngest democracy in South Asia after more than a decade. Manmohan Singh will address a joint session of the first elected parliament of Bhutan the same day thus becoming the first international leader to be given the honour, the external affairs ministry said here Tuesday.

“India and Bhutan share uniquely warm and cordial relations characterized by close consultations, maturity, complete trust and mutual understanding,” the ministry said.

The visit will focus on developing a more diversified and contemporary economic and energy partnership in tune with emerging realities in the two countries.

Manmohan Singh will hold talks with the previous king, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, and his son and the present monarch, 28-year-old Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk. He will also meet his Bhutanese counterpart, Jigne Thinley, and discuss with him a host of issues, including India’s development cooperation with Bhutan.

India has undertaken a slew of infrastructure development projects in Bhutan, which include building of roads in the mountainous nation of 700,000 people.

Collaboration in the hydro-power sector will be the highlight of Manmohan Singh’s visit. He would dedicate the 1,020 MW Tala hydroelectric project, built with India’s assistance, and lay the foundation of the 1,095 MW Punatsangchhu hydroelectric project.

With the India-US civil nuclear deal slipping into political limbo, experts point out that Bhutan’s hydro-power potential of 30,000 MW could become an important part of New Delhi’s quest for energy security.

The Tala hydropower project at Chukha Dzongkhag in western Bhutan, the largest joint venture between the two countries, is a symbol of Indo-Bhutanese collaboration in the field of power generation.

The visit will also give the prime minister an insight into the democratic transformation of the nation of 700,000 people that once relished its isolation and prided itself on measuring its wealth in terms of gross domestic happiness.

P.V. Narasimha Rao was the last Indian prime minister to go to Thimphu 1993.

India and Bhutan signed an updated treaty of friendship last year which gave Thimphu, hitherto guided by New Delhi in its defence and foreign policies since 1949, more freedom in international diplomacy and non-lethal military purchases.

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