India proposes new ideas to strengthen ties with Bhutan

India proposes new ideas to strengthen ties with BhutanTHIMPHU: India today proposed new ideas for further enhancing cooperation with Bhutan while asserting that commitments made by the previous government will be fulfilled.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is accompanying Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bhutan on his maiden foreign visit, told reporters here that the Indian side was “extremely satisfied” with the “extremely successful” visit.

Swaraj said Prime Minister Modi gave some new suggestions to Bhutan.

Prime Minister Modi proposed to hold a joint sports festival between Bhutan and northeastern states of India, establish e-libraries in 20 districts in Bhutan and set up a university on Himalayan studies, she said.

“We reiterated that the commitments made by the previous government will be fulfilled. These commitments are made by a country to a country and not by government to government,” Swaraj said.

“He reiterated commitments made by the previous government regarding the Five Year Plan by saying that such commitments are not made by government to government but by country to country. We will fulfill commitments in toto,” Swaraj told reporters allaying fears that India would discontinue with subsidies on LPG.

She said Bhutan was selected for the Prime Minister’s first foreign visit as it is one of India’s “important neighbors”.

The visit, Swaraj said, has reinforced relations between the two countries. Though it was a short visit, Modi was able to interact with the members of the Legislature, Judiciary and the Executive.

Referring to the power projects being implemented in Bhutan, Swaraj said Modi was of the view that these projects should be completed in a speedy manner. Swaraj said India wants to establish e-libraries in each of the 20 districts of Bhutan so that two million books become available to the youth of the country.

Referring to Modi’s speech at the Bhutan Parliament, she said while there is a thinking that Himalayas divide, the Prime Minister is of the thinking that the Himalayas unite.

In his speech Modi had described the Himalayas as a shared legacy of the two countries and had stressed on the need to develop the ecology of the region, Swaraj said.

The Prime Minister spoke from his heart to the Bhutanese leadership and said the name of the two countries start with the letter ‘B’ and “Bharat should stand for Bhutan and Bhutan for Bharat,” Swaraj told reporters.

“It has become a quotable quote,” she said.

Responding to a question, the External Affairs Minister said while a strong India was in the interest of its neighbors, strong and stable governments in the neighborhood were also in the interest of New Delhi.

She said the Indian side was “deeply touched” by the gesture of the monarchy and the people of Bhutan in welcoming Modi. -PTI

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