India, Bhutan Can Contribute to Outcomes in SAARC: Mukherjee

November 8, 2014

Describing India's ties with Bhutan as "exemplary" that take care of each other's concerns and vital interests, President Pranab Mukherjee today said the two countries can jointly contribute to constructive talks and far reaching outcomes at the upcoming SAARC Summit.


Addressing a convention, where he also launched a number of India-sponsored programmes in Bhutan, Mukherjee called upon both nations to earnestly take up their role within SAARC for advancement of the region and for global peace, security and development.

"I would like to suggest that India and Bhutan must take up, with all earnestness their role within SAARC to move our regional cooperation towards positive and productive programmes for the advancement of the region and global peace, security and development," Mukherjee said on the last day of his two-day Bhutan visit, the first by an Indian head of state to the country in last 26 years

"The forthcoming SAARC Summit in Kathmandu will be a crucial meeting in which Bhutan and India can work together to contribute to constructive deliberations and far reaching outcomes," he said addressing an elite gathering at the Convention Centre here.

Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, along with his Cabinet colleagues, was present during the function where President Mukherjee unveiled a School Reforms project, a 546-km double-laning road project and a Central school developed through India's assistance.

Three agreements between IIM Ahmedabad and the Royal Civil Service Commission of Bhutan and one between the Royal University of Bhutan and India's National Innovation Foundation were signed in the presence of President Mukherjee and the Bhutanese Prime Minister.

An agreement was also signed between the English and Foreign Languages University of Hyderabad and the Royal University of Bhutan

Delivering an address on the 'India-Bhutan relations', the President said, "I would today sum it up as an exemplary bilateral relationship between two neighbouring countries, a unique and successful partnership for mutual benefit, and a symbiotic friendship between two peoples bound by age-old historical and cultural linkages."

"Our close bilateral relations are based on our many shared perceptions and priorities. There is a deep confidence and trust between our Governments and people and we have ensured that we remain sensitive, as closely cooperating neighbours, to each other's concerns and vital interests," he said.

"There are many more miles we have to go. We have to go a long distance. Lets move forward, let us move in harmony, let us move in peace in understanding each other," Mukherjee said in his address.

Later, in a joint statement it was stated that both sides expressed satisfaction over the excellent state of bilateral relations and reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthen the special friendship between the two countries.

"The two sides reaffirmed the trust and confidence between the two countries and their mutual security interests. They agreed to continue their close coordination and cooperation with each other on issues relating to their national interest, and not allow each other's territory to be used for interests inimical to the other," the statement said.

The Indian government reiterated its commitment to Bhutan's socio-economic development and continued support for the successful implementation of the 11th Five Year Plan of of Bhutan from 2013 to 2018.

Talking about the strong ties between India and Bhutan, President Mukherjee said, "as inheritors of this legacy, we are duty-bound to nurture every aspect of it and ensure that we build on it and realise its full potential."

He said the last few months have been marked by a consolidation and intensification of close bilateral ties.

"Our exchanges at the political as well as official level and our frank dialogue on all issues have facilitated our mutual understanding and close collaboration in the inclusive development and socio-economic progress of our people," Mukherjee said.

"We have a common objective of sustainable development, education for all and the development of innovative solutions to address the specific needs of our population from the grassroots level," he said.

Talking about his long association with Bhutan, Mukherjee said "there is so much more to learn -- from the way of life and philosophy of the people of Bhutan."

Stressing on the importance of education, President Mukherjee said India will continue to support Bhutan and offer seats in our premier educational institutes.

He also pointed out that India has decided to enhance the value of the Indian Ambassadorial Scholarship Fund from Rs one crore to Rs 2 crore per annum and this scholarship will be utilised to encourage promising but needy students from Bhutan desiring to pursue higher studies in premier educational institutions in India.

He said India has also decided to allocate more seats to Butanese students in Ayurveda and Law.

The President, who has come to Bhutan on the invitation of Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, held wide-ranging discussions with the King and the Prime Minister including on bilateral and regional issues.

Mukherjee also met the fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Prime Minster Tobgay called on the President.

The King of Bhutan and his predecessor hosted lunches separately in the honour of the President and his delegation that comprises Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha and MPs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Anil Shirole, Mahendra Nath Pandey and Gaurav Gogoi, besides officials and representatives of a few educational and academic institutions.

"The meetings were held in a warm and friendly atmosphere, reflecting the spirit of mutual trust, cooperation and understanding that charcterises the unique and special relations between the two countries," the joint statement said.

President Mukherjee reiterated the support of the Indian government to education and capacity building of Bhutan.

He launched the School Reform Programme of the Bhutanese government, a Rs 3487.2 million Indian government­assistance project and inaugurated the Yelchen Central School.

The Bhutanese government expressed their support of the noble ideas underlining the establishment of the Nalanda University and agreed to be part of this international collaboration in the pursuit of re­establishment of linkages of knowledge across the world.

By signing the MOU on the establishment of the Nalanda University, Bhutan became only the second country outside the East Asia Summit process to do so.

In the address, the President said it was in India's interest to see a strong, vibrant and prosperous Bhutan.

Bhutan also believes that a strong India is also in its interest.

"We both have proven to the world that our nations find themselves co-existing in perfect harmony -- with our destinies interlinked in many ways -- and yet we remain independent and as we pursue many analogous developmental priorities," Mukherjee said in his address.

He once again underlined that "hydropower is a classic example of win-win cooperation between our countries" and said while Bhutan was on its way to power self-sufficiency its surplus power exported to India was helping it to further fuel growth and expansion.

The President yesterday evening inaugurated the Jigme Wangchuk Power Training Institute that will train Bhutanese youth to run future projects that aims to produce a total of 20,000 MW by 2020 with India as its biggest buyer.

Four more projects have been taken up now as joint ventures between public sector undertakings of India and Bhutan and the foundation stone of the first such project being laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit Bhutan in June.

Mukherjee lauded Bhutan for keeping its culture and human values intact, for moving ahead both as a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy.



Source: Outlook
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