'India ready to help boost S Asia security'
Becoming the first world leader to address the Bhutan Parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh strongly pitches for a South Asia that is "at peace with itself".Updated: May 17, 2008, 12:33 IST
Becoming the first world leader to address the Bhutan Parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday strongly pitched for a South Asia that is "at peace with itself" and expressed India's readiness to assist in making the region more secure and prosperous.
Singh, who is on a two-day visit here, assured Bhutan that India will stand by the Himalayan country as a factor of stability and support.
The Indian Prime Minister is the first world leader to address the Bhutan Parliament after the historic March elections taking the country on the path of democracy.
"India desires to see a South Asia which is at peace with itself. We wish to contribute to ever widening circles of security, peace and prosperity in our region," Singh said addressing the Bhutan National Assembly.
"It is with this objective that we look towards working further with Bhutan, in both the bilateral and regional context. A Bhutan that is sovereign, prosperous and secure is central to our vision for the future," he said.
As Bhutan enters a new era in its history, Singh said, "you can continue to count on India, as a friend and - may I say - an admirer of Bhutan. India will stand by you as a factor of stability and support in your quest for greater prosperity and happiness."
Singh also announced that India will begin construction of the first ever rail link with Bhutan, marking the 50th anniversary of the visit of late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to the landlocked nation.
"I am particularly happy to inform this august House that we will begin construction of the first ever rail link between India and Bhutan, connecting Hashimara to Phuentsholing, called the 'Golden Jubilee Rail Line'," he said. The rail line will link Bhutan to the entire railway network of India, he said.
Visiting Bhutan in the centenary year of the Wangchuck dynasty, the Prime Minister said India will institute a Nehru-Wangchuck Scholarship to encourage students from Bhutan to study in leading Indian universities and institutions.
"The young profile of our two populations makes it incumbent upon us to meet their aspirations," he said.
Seeking to tap the hydro-power resources of the mountain kingdom, Singh said "we will work with Bhutan to develop two new mega hydro-power projects, Punatsangchhu-II and Mangdechhu."
"We will commence the preparation of detailed project reports for four new projects," the Prime Minister said. In Singh's talks with his Bhutanese counterpart Jigmi Y Thinley on Friday, the two sides had agreed to double the hydro-power generation target to 10,000 MW by 2020.
Singh said India remained committed to working with Bhutan in support of the 10th Five Year Plan, a period that will lay the building blocks for the country's development.
"We will develop our cooperation during the 10th Plan with imagination and flexibility, in accordance with your priorities in human resource development, education, information and communication technologies, health, infrastructure and numerous other fields," Singh said.
India also looked forward to strengthening institutional linkages with the Bhutanese judiciary, the Election Commission and other Constitutional bodies, he said.
"As we draw all these threads together, our bilateral economic engagement with Bhutan over the next five years will be of the order of Rs 100 billion," Singh said.