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Manmohan to visit Bhutan soon

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will visit Bhutan, caught in the throes of democratic transformation.

india Updated: May 13, 2007 13:17 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will visit Bhutan, caught in the throes of democratic transformation, when he goes to the idyllic Himalayan state later this year - the first by an Indian prime minister to that country in over a decade.

"Dates are being discussed. It's likely to happen later this year," official sources said.

Manmohan Singh's trip to Bhutan could also be his first bilateral visit to a neighbouring country with which India shares borders since he became prime minister three years ago. PV Narasimha Rao was the last Indian prime minister to go to Thimphu in 1993.

When Bhutan's 27-year-old king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk came to New Delhi in February to sign an updated treaty of friendship and cooperation, he extended an invitation to Manmohan Singh to visit Bhutan which he accepted.

The signing of the revised friendship treaty allows Thimphu - with which New Delhi has had a special relationship - greater freedom in areas of foreign policy and military purchases.

Bhutan recently staged a full dress rehearsal for two-party elections (its final round of mock elections are on May 28) scheduled for next year that will take the tiny Himalayan kingdom, which chooses to measure its national wealth in terms of gross national happiness, into the tumult and ferment of democracy.

For all the talk about the government re-energising its neigbourhood policy, Manmohan Singh has yet to make a bilateral visit to a neighbouring country in the last three years the ruling coalition headed by him has been in power.

For last eight years, there has been no bilateral visit by an Indian prime minister to a neighbouring country. This has created a sense of neglect in a neighbourhood that has had mixed feelings about India's growing stature as an emerging power and its enhanced engagement with the US since the two countries signed a landmark civilian nuclear cooperation deal in 2005.