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Our relations are unique and special: President Mukherjee...
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(Kuensel Nov 7, 2014)

Our relations are unique and special: President Mukherjee

India attaches the highest importance to its relations with Bhutan, a friend and neighbour, which is sustained by a long tradition of close consultations and frequent exchange of high level visits, according to the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee.

The President is arriving today in the country on the invitation of His Majesty the King.

The President, in an e-mail interview, said that, upon the invitation of His Majesty the King, his government and he felt that the visit should be undertaken at the earliest opportunity.  The President is the second topmost Indian leader to visit Bhutan in less than six months.  The Prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, visited the country in June, a month after taking office.

“The visit by two top Indian leaders within a year is an important signal of our sincere desire to promote good neighbourly relations in South Asia, and the importance we attach to Bhutan. I am confident my visit will further strengthen the already strong relations between our two countries,” he said.

Refuting reports in Indian media that the President is visiting the country “with one eye on China”, President Mukherjee said there was no need of a third party or a third country as a reason to come close to each other.

India-Bhutan relations stand on their own with great potential for us to scale new heights in the future,” he said.

The President, who had visited the country several times in many capacities, said he had closely followed Bhutan’s growth and evolution, led by His Majesty the Fourth King and His Majesty the Fifth King. “Over the years, I have watched our relationship grow from strength to strength.  I have also contributed in whatever way I could to the nurturing of this relationship. In both the countries, there is consensus across the political spectrum that a strong India-Bhutan partnership is in our collective interest,” he said.

While the tradition of frequent exchanges and close bilateral relations is unbroken over many decades, India’s developmental assistance and security cooperation will continue to be the bedrock of the relations between the two countries, according to the President. “Irrespective of which political party is in power in India, it will accord the utmost importance to relations with Bhutan.  We would like to nurture this relationship to be a win-win partnership that is a model for the entire region,” he said.

“In fact, 2014 is a year of further consolidation of our relations.”

On future areas of cooperation, President Mukherjee said the two countries must proactively explore new avenues for cooperation.  One area identified is education. “We’re ready to offer greater assistance to Bhutan in traditional medicine and are setting up e-libraries in all the 20 districts of Bhutan,” he said.  Reiterating the promises Prime Minister Narendra Modi made in June, during his visit to the country, the President said that, besides doubling the Nehru-Wangchuck Scholarship to Rs 20M per annum, they intend to also augment other scholarships.

“Exchanges between our respective academic institutions in the field of languages, management, law and innovation are being intensified. We’re ready to assist Bhutan’s School Reform programme, and offer enhanced opportunities for Bhutanese students to study in India.”

The President said the two countries could also further strengthen cooperation in the field of agriculture and livestock development. “We’ve offered to train your entrepreneurs in post harvest technologies and in the processing of agricultural products. Our institutes can offer training programmes in dairying, livestock management and cottage industries,” he said, adding that India was determined to carefully nurture and build upon the exemplary partnership with Bhutan in the coming decades.

“We’ll work in close harmony, allowing simultaneously, sufficient room for the independence of our own judgments. India’s resources are at the disposal of the people and government of Bhutan.”

 

 

 
 
 
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