Patil heads to Bhutan Wednesday for coronationNovember 3rd, 2008 - 10:28 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Nov 3 (IANS) President Pratibha Patil goes to Thimphu Wednesday for four days of ceremonies that will mark the coronation of the 29-year-old Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk as the fifth king of Bhutan. “The visit of the president at this significant moment in Bhutan’s history will further strengthen bilateral relations between India and Bhutan,” the external affairs ministry said here Monday while announcing Patil’s visit to Bhutan.
Underlining “unique, warm and cordial relations” between the two countries, the ministry said the ties have been “characterized by close consultations, maturity, complete trust and mutual understanding.”
Patil will be accompanied by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and senior officials, official sources said.
United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi will also be present at the coronation ceremony with her entire family, including son Rahul Gandhi, daughter Priyanka and son-in-law Robert Vadra.
The Gandhis have been invited by Bhutan’s royal family as they share family friendship that spans decades right from the time India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru went to the Himalayan country nearly half a century ago.
India and Bhutan modernized their ties last year when they signed a revised treaty of friendship that gave Thimphu more freedom in running its foreign policy and in military purchases.
The festivities marking the new king’s coronation would continue for 42 days. Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan and Indian dance sensation Astad Deboo are set to spice up the spectacle designed for the big moment. Bhutan is an idyllic nation that prefers to measure its wealth in terms of Gross National Happiness.
Bhutan saw the last coronation nearly 35 years ago in 1974, when the Fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, was crowned at the age of 17.
The coronation comes barely six months after Bhutan’s historic first democratic election and underlines the royal family’s commitment to pushing Bhutan ahead on the path of democracy while continuing with hereditary monarchy that inspires a lot of affection and respect among the Bhutanese people.