Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) shakes hands with Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk in Thimphu on Sunday. Photo: AFP
Thimphu: (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said India is committed to good neighbourly relations and assured Bhutan that change in government will not alter the dynamics of Indo-Bhutan ties. “India is committed to good relations with its neighbours,” Modi said in his address to joint session of Bhutan’s Parliament here. On second day of his two-day visit to the Himalayan country, Modi said if India progresses, it will directly impact the development of its neighbours. “Stability and development in India will help neighbours like Bhutan,” he said in his speech in Hindi.
He also lauded Bhutan for the smooth transition from monarchy to democracy in a span of seven years which showed maturity in governance in that country. 63-year-old Modi arrived here on Sunday on his first foreign trip after assuming office last month. Recalling India’s historic ties with Bhutan, Modi said his government would work towards further strengthening the relations between the two neighbours. Noting that terrorism divides and tourism unites, he said Bhutan has immense potential in the tourism sector. Modi said development of tourism does not require large investment but can yield substantial profit and even the poor can benefit from it. Describing the Himalayas as a shared legacy of the two countries, he stressed on the need to develop the region and said India is planning to open a university for Himalayan studies.
He also thanked Bhutan’s Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay for attending his swearing in ceremony in Delhi last month. Modi had on Sunday vowed to nurture bilateral relations which he described as “B4B Bharat for Bhutan and Bhutan for Bharat” as he held wide-ranging talks with Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk and Tobgay. He had also inaugurated the Supreme Court complex built by India as part of the developmental cooperation. During his talks, Modi had assured Bhutan’s leadership that India is committed to its happiness and progress even though the government in Delhi has changed. Speaking at a banquet hosted by Bhutanese Prime Minister Tobgay here last night, he had said India and Bhutan are “made for each other” considering the “glorious” traditional linkages between the two countries. Modi is accompanied by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, national security adviser Ajit Doval and foreign secretary Sujatha Singh.
On Monday he will lay the foundation for a 600 megawatt hydroelectric power station, part of an energy cooperation plan to feed demand in Bhutan, and also India. "PM underlined that he would not only nurture strong bonds but would also strengthen them," a government official said after Modi's talks with Bhutan's King Jigme Kesar Wangchuk and Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay. Bhutan, wedged in the Himalayas between India and China is the closest India has to an ally in South Asia, a region home to over 1.5 billion people but held back by bristling rivalries. Modi's Bhutan visit shows an astute sense of the region's critical importance to India's economic dynamism and strategic strength, said Alyssa Ayres, a South Asia expert at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. "Of course, India is also closely watching China's border talks with Bhutan and China’s recent efforts to establish stronger ties with Thimphu," she said. On Sunday, hundreds of school children dressed in traditional red and green tunics lined the route from the airport to wave the Indian flag as Modi's motorcade arrived in the kingdom which for centuries was closed to outsiders.