Sunday, 18 May 2008

India commits Nu 100 billion to Bhutan

17 May, 2008 - Addressing the joint session of the newly elected Bhutanese parliament today in Thimphu the prime minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, committed Nu 100 billion for Bhutan’s 10th Five Year Plan.

“Our bilateral engagement with Bhutan over the next five years will be of the order of Rs 100 billion,” said the prime minister in his address.

The prime minister, who was on a two-day visit, also laid the foundation stone of the Punatsangchhu I hydro project in Wangduephodrang and dedicated the 1020 MW Tala Hydroelectric Project to the people of India and Bhutan.

Addressing the joint sitting, which was attended by representatives of the royal family, high level delegation from the government of India and senior officials of the Bhutanese government, the prime minister said that as Bhutan entered into a new era in its history it could always continue to count on India as a friend. “As an admirer of Bhutan, India will stand by you as a factor of stability and support in your quest for greater prosperity and happiness,” he said.

The prime minister reminded the parliamentarians that as the first ever elected representatives of the people, they should bear a special responsibility and have a unique opportunity to translate the aspiration of the people into reality.

“Democracy is not merely about elections. It requires sustained commitment to tolerance and the judicious exercise of power as a societal trust to be used for public good. It requires a deep commitment to the rule of law, building of strong institutions of governance, and respect for other’s viewpoint,” he said. “I can assure you that you have wholehearted support as you enter this new and exciting phase in your country’s history. We'll work with you to realize your full potential, in a manner and pace that suits your own chosen path of development and priorities.”

Prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh also informed the parliament that the two countries would develop two new mega hydropower projects; the Punatsangchhu-II and Mangdechhu. He said that the government of India would commence the preparation of detailed project reports for four new projects. “Implementation of these projects will help us achieve the target of at least 5,000 MW of electricity from Bhutan to India by 2020,” he said.

The prime minister also said that the construction of the first ever rail link between India and Bhutan called the “Golden Jubilee Rail Link”, commemorating the late Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit in 1958, will start soon to connect Hashimara to Phuentsholing.

Bhutan-India relation, according to the prime minister was no political construct. “It draws its strength from geography, from history, scholarship, religion culture, and ancient commercial and people to people contacts. Just as strands of many colours are woven together to make a beautiful kira, so the many and varied strands that constitute the tapestry of our relationship come together,” said the prime minister.

He said that the relations between India and Bhutan was a model of how neighbouring countries, uneven in physical size and attributes, can coexist in perfect harmony and understanding. "Both our countries have a vital stake in each other’s well-being and prosperity,” he said. “As we enter a new era in our ties and a new century, I come to seek and reinforce the same meetings of minds, the same depth of understanding and the same confluence of thoughts and aspirations that have characterized our relations thus far, to guide us in the future. As partners, confident in our friendship and mutual security, we will work together to make our friendship gain added strength with the passage of time.”

Visiting at a historic time when it was the centenary year of the Wangchuck Dynasty, the year of the coronation of His Majesty Jigme Khesar, and of Bhutan’s transition to democracy, the prime minister said that it was a tribute to the enlightened leadership and statesmanship provided by the Fourth Druk Gyalpo that Bhutan has succeeded in reaching these milestones in an atmosphere of utmost peace and stability while steadily improving the welfare of her people.

The chairman of the National Council, Namgay Penjore, thanked the prime minister on behalf of the parliament. “Your words of wisdom will go a long way in reminding us of onerous duties as members of parliament in ensuring the success of parliamentary democracy in Bhutan,” said the chairman.

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