In a larger message to India's neighbours, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing a joint session of the Bhutanese parliament on Monday, said a stronger India would be better for the Himalayan kingdom and other South Asian nations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the National Assembly in Thimphu, Bhutan. (PTI Photo)
He assured that ties between India and Bhutan were very strong and a change of government in New Delhi would not alter the dynamics of their bilateral ties.
Modi — taking to a series of catch-phrases such as "terrorism divides and tourism unites" — said the Himalayas, which ran across many countries in the region as a border, should bring the nations together.
"Strength of a democracy is very important for the region and its people. The stronger India will be, the better it is for Bhutan and other SAARC (South Asian Association for regional cooperation) nations. A strong and stable India is needed to make sure that we can help our neighbours with their problems," he said in an extempore speech delivered in Hindi.
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Bhutan has remained a close partner of India. The premier of the Himalayan nation was one of seven regional leaders invited to Modi's inauguration as Prime Minister.
But New Delhi has concerns about ongoing boundary talks between Bhutan and China, especially in the wake of Beijing's plans to expand the Chumbi Valley by extending its claims on Bhutan's western border. This would have implications for the Siliguri corridor — India's only access to its northeastern states.
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Stressing on the historic ties between the two countries on the second and concluding day of his Bhutan visit, Modi said: "If you walk a few steps, we too feel like walking those steps and supporting you"
"Our hearts are always open for friendly relations with neighbours. In a bid to bond with the neighbours more, Modi suggested the idea of a sports meet that would bring together the Himalayan states including Bhutan.
"The Himalayas bring us together. We must be very proud of the Himalayas. They are our strength. The Himalayas are India and Bhutan's common heritage," the Indian PM added.
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Modi lauded Bhutan for the smooth transition from monarchy to democracy and said it showed the maturity in their governance.
Hailing Bhutan for promoting education by "devoting a lot of resources," Modi said: "Terrorism divides and tourism unites. Bhutan has rich potential for tourism to grow."
He said India wanted to take forward its hydropower cooperation with the Himalayan country in a major way and also equip its youth with technology to be able to match strides with others in the world.
"Bharat-Bhutan cooperation in the field of hydropower is going strong. I want to take it forward," said Modi, adding that their cooperation in the area should be an example to the world in sustainable development.
He praised the royal family of Bhutan for the progress of the Himalayan nation.
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(With inputs from Agencies)