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PM pledges help for Bhutan’s development

world Updated: May 17, 2008 01:01 IST
Aloke Tikku

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh landed in pristine Paro Valley on Friday, his first visit to a south Asian neighbour in four years.

The trip comes 50 years after Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, with daughter Indira in tow, reached the capital of the Himalayan kingdom travelling on horses and yaks across hilly terrain. Nehru spent a month in the country.

“Indo-Bhutan relationship is a model of inter-state relations. We enjoy open borders and free trade. There is vast goodwill for each other at all levels,” the prime minister had said on the eve of his departure.

“I come with the message that India stands ready to join hands with Bhutan to do our bit for accelerated development,” said the PM, who brings with him financial assistance in excess of Rs 4,000 crore.

The Indo-Bhutan 700-km border is guarded by the Shashastra Seema Bal that also escorts consignments to and from Thimphu to protect them from Indian insurgents. The Royal Bhutan Army had launched an operation against insurgent groups like Ulfa in 2003, to wipe out their camps – India's only neighbour to have acted on her concerns against insurgent groups.

The prime minister’s move to showcase relations with Bhutan comes in the backdrop of serial explosions in Jaipur.
Within days of the PM’s return home, the foreign ministry would

begin another round of talks with Pakistan to raise Indian concerns on terrorist violence.

Manmohan Singh will be the first foreign leader to address a joint session of the new Parliament on Saturday morning.
“This is a exciting event,” the PM said of the timing of his visit.

Parliamentary democracy, however, could bring various shades of opinion vis-à-vis the aspirations of Bhutanese society. It will also introduce pressure from other players in the region. China and Pakistan are trying to establish diplomatic relations.