Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, on a state visit to Bhutan, Saturday 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 an address at the Convention Centre here on bilateral ties as he wound up his two-day visit, Mukherjee said as someone who has had close involvement in development of relations with Bhutan while ‘having served in various capacities in the government of India – including at the helm of defence, finance and foreign ministries’, he would sum up ties as an exemplary bilateral relationship between two neighbouring countries, a unique and successful partnership for mutual benefit, and a symbiotic friendship between two peoples bound by age-old historical and cultural linkages.
“There is a deep confidence and trust between our government and peoples and we have ensured that we remain sensitive, as closely cooperating neighbours, 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, the president said it was in India’s interest to see a strong, vibrant and prosperous Bhutan and the two countries have ‘proven to the world that our nations find themselves coexisting in perfect harmony – with our destinies interlinked in many ways – and yet we remain independent as we pursue many analogous developmental priorities’.
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.