Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laid the foundation stone of three key projects in Bhutan Friday before returning home after a hectic three-day trip to the Himalayan kingdom for the 16th SAARC summit during which he held ice-breaking talks with his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani.
On the last day of his visit, Manmohan Singh held a bilateral meeting with Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and laid the foundation stones of the India-funded state-of-the-art medical institute, two hydroelectricity plants and an IT project.
The two hydroelectric plants have a combined capacity to generate 1,710 MW of power in the water-resource rich nation that will enable Bhutan to export clean energy to India and other neighbours. Hydroelectricity is the major source of revenue for this least developed South Asian nation.
The Rs.2,900 crore Mangdechhu hydroelectric project to be built in central Bhutan will have an underground powerhouse with four units each of 180 MW capacity that would generate 2,083 million units of electricity in a year.
The second power plant, Punadsalgchhu-II at Rs.3,778 crore, will come up in western Bhutan and will have a power house with six units each of 165 MW capacity. The two power projects are expected to be completed in seven years.
Most of the power generated by these two projects is expected to be sold to India as per the agreement signed between External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and his Bhutanese counterpart Khandu Wangchuk earlier.
The medical college in Thimphu, the scenic capital city of the Himalayan kingdom, will help in improving the health services of the country. The actual work of the Bhutan Institute of Medical Science (BIMS), which will be the apex central institute for medical education, research and patient care, will start early next year.
Manmohan Singh also launched an IT project that is aimed at making half the 6.8 lakh population of Bhutan computer literate in the next five years. The IT project is titled 'Chipen-Rigpel’ (enabling a society and empowering the nation).
Under the Rs.205 crore project funded by India, over 275 computer schools and labs will be established in rural Bhutan.
During his Bhutan visit that saw India and Pakistan agreeing to move ahead with the stalled peace talks, Manmohan Singh held bilateral meetings with the heads of Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Manmohan Singh was in Thimphu to take part in the 16th SAARC summit where South Asian leaders vowed to root out terrorism and signed environment and trade agreements aimed at opening new vistas in economic integration.
The prime minister returned home in Friday afternoon.