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India, Bhutan to upgrade 1949 Treaty

india Updated: Jan 09, 2007 21:29 IST
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In a bid to raise bilateral ties and bring them in tune with contemporary reality, India and Bhutan have reviewed and agreed to upgrade the India–Bhutan Friendship Treaty of 1949.

The new treaty, to replace the one signed on August 8, 1949 in Darjeeling, will reflect the contemporary nature of the relationship and lay the foundation for future development of ties, spokesman for the External Affairs Ministry Navtej Sarna said.

The existing treaty was inherited from the British, an official said, and reflected colonial values, including the need for Bhutan to consult India on the conduct of its foreign policy.

India and Bhutan share what Sarna called the "closest relationship", politically, strategically and economically, based on "the firm foundations of historical ties, shared interests and mutually beneficial cooperation."

Bhutan launched a military offensive in December 2004, led by the then monarch Jigme Singye Wangchuk, against militants and insurgents from the Indian northeast who had taken refuge in the forests along the Indo-Bhutanese border. The gesture was widely appreciated in India as an "exemplary gesture of friendship", a senior official said.

The renewal and upgradation of relations in the treaty assumes added significance with insurgents of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) having conducted a series of terrorist raids in Assam early this month.

The new treaty, to be signed when new Bhutanese monarch King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk visits India later this year, accords recognition to the changing face of Bhutan's politics and Bhutan's move towards democracy.

"The finalisation of the India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty coincides with Bhutan's transition to a Constitutional democracy and reflects the desire of both governments to put in place the framework for the future growth of our relationship," Sarna said.

"It aims to consolidate our mutually cooperative friendship in a manner that is responsive to and serves each other's national interests through close cooperation," Sarna said.

"The treaty will enable the further intensification of our relations in areas such as hydropower cooperation, trade and commerce and human resource development."

The spokesman said the government had kept all political parties informed about the background to the revision.

The prime minister and external affairs minister had called leaders of opposition parties earlier this month to discuss proposed changes and future neighbourhood policy.

While similar changes are being contemplated in a review of the Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty of 1950, no decisions have yet been taken and no changes agreed upon, a senior official said. The Maoists want the Treaty abrogated as they consider it unequal and heavily tilted in India's favour.

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