India

Bhutan ties: PM’s first foreign trip on June 15-16

  • Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • |
  • Updated: Jun 14, 2014 01:10 IST

In a goodwill gesture with strategic intent, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will undertake his first foreign trip to the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, a buffer between India and China, on June 15 and 16.

And no effort is being spared on making the visit reflect the close ties between the neighbours.

Modi will inaugurate the new building of the Bhutan Supreme Court, address the country’s parliament, announce India’s willingness to further Bhutan’s economic development.

The Supreme court building is among the projects that was part of the Indian assistance to Bhutan’s tenth fiver year plan that ended in 2013.

Modi, will arrive to a traditional Bhutanese welcome Sunday afternoon and the prime minister will be accompanied by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, national security adviser Ajit Doval and foreign secretary Sujatha Singh.

Though Bhutan remains a very close partner of India, the recent moves by China to make inroads into that country has been watched by carefully by New Delhi. This includes a proposal of China opening a consulate in Bhutan.

Asked about China’s effort to reach out to Bhutan, the foreign secretary Sujatha Singh  said “Bhutan is a sovereign country and it is for its leaders to decide on this issue keeping its interests in mind.”

Modi, who has placed neighbourhood at the centre of his foreign policy, where regional economic linkages forms a key part, is expected to make it an underlying theme of this visit as well.

“Our hydropower cooperation with Bhutan is a classic example of win-win cooperation. The hydropower projects generate export revenues for Bhutan, cement our economic partnership, and provide clean and low-cost electricity to India”, Singh said.

According to the latest available figure, India-Bhutan trade amounted to Rs. 6,830 crore in 2012. India has also invested in 16 projects in Bhutan in areas such as hydropower, cement and information technology.

 

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