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India, Bhutan sign friendship treaty

The 57-year-old treaty gives Thimphu more freedom in the crucial areas of foreign policy and non-lethal military purchases.

world Updated:

In a historic step India and Bhutan on Thursday opened "a new era" in their special ties by signing a revised version of their 57-year-old friendship treaty that gives Thimphu more freedom in the crucial areas of foreign policy and non-lethal military purchases.

The updated treaty was signed between the two sides at Hyderabad House here after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Bhutan's 27-year-old king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk held talks on a wide array of bilateral and global issues.

"The signing of the India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty today opens a new era in the further deepening and strengthening of this unique and special relationship" under the reign of Bhutan's new king, external affairs ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna said.

The revised treaty has rewritten Articles 2 and 6 of the 1949 document and gives Thimphu more freedom to pursue its foreign policy and in the purchase of non-lethal military equipment as long as such decisions do not damage India's vital strategic interests.

The old treaty, which was signed in Darjeeling August 8, 1949, contained nine clauses while the new one would have 10.

<b1>Article 2, which says that Bhutan will be guided by India's advice while conducting its foreign policy, has been substituted by a language that speaks of cooperation.

A close consultative mechanism will be set up in this regard.

"The treaty commits both countries to cooperate closely with each other on issues relating to their national interests, and not allow the use of their territories for activities harmful to the national security and interest of the other," Sarna said in a statement.

"The signing of the India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty marks a historic moment in our relations with Bhutan," he said.

"It includes fresh provisions for consolidating and expanding economic cooperation for mutual and long-term benefit, and cooperation in the fields of culture, education, health, sports, and science and technology," Sarna said.

"It does not envisage a change in the treatment of nationals of both countries, or in the free trade regime that we have," he added.

Calling India-Bhutan ties "an exemplary model of good-neighbourly relations," Sarna said they symbolised "our belief that the people of South Asia share a common destiny".

Wangchuk began his six-day visit to India on Wednesday, the first after his father abdicated in his favour in December.

The Oxford-educated monarch will be enthroned next year when the idyllic Himalayan state, which prefers to measure its national wealth in terms of 'gross national happiness', will embrace two-party democracy and hold elections.

Wangchuk met External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and ruling coalition chair Sonia Gandhi and discussed with them a range of issues, including enhanced business ties and increased cooperation in the area of hydroelectricity.