Modi’s visit a reaffirmation of abiding friendship: Bhutan PM

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay of Bhutan will highlight enhanced co-operation in the hydropower sector between India and his country as a key focus of the bilateral relationship during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day visit beginning on Sunday.

“The least we can expect for the two governments is to expedite the construction of the power plants in Bhutan to address a fraction of India’s huge demand for power,” he said in an exclusive interview to The Hindu, a day before Mr. Modi’s arrival in Thimphu.

“Bhutan and India must tap the full potential of the hydropower industry in Bhutan,” Prime Minister Tobgay said in emailed responses to a questionnaire, “which is the centrepiece of our bilateral cooperation. ”

The Bhutan Prime Minister said his country, endowed with abundant water resources, had commissioned three major hydropower projects while three more are under construction. The surplus electricity generated these hydropower plants is exported to India.

Bhutan would be “ready to discuss any issues that PM Modi may wish to raise,” Prime Minister Tobgay said. “The gamut of Bhutan-India cooperation is wide and includes trade and investment, economic cooperation, development of hydropower, development assistance, cultural cooperation and most important of all, security interests.” The “deep and abiding” friendship between the two countries was the reason Prime Minister Modi had chosen Thimphu for his first foreign visit, he said.

Responding to a question on Beijing’s interest in setting up a consulate in Thimphu, Mr. Tobgay said China “has not advanced such a proposal to the Royal Government”, but that as a neighbour of China “we engage regularly with it to resolve the border issue.”

The Bhutan Prime Minister said his country had good relations with all political parties in India. “Yes we have enjoyed close relations with the UPA government. However, Indo-Bhutan relations established and nurtured by our Kings, today now transcend whichever political party is in power in both our countries. Bhutan also has very good relations with all the political parties in India, particularly the BJP,” he said.

“[A]fter the transition to democracy in 2008 the previous government led by Druk Pheunsum Party and now my own party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party continue to maintain its relations with India as the corner stone of Bhutan’s foreign policy.”

Click here to read the full interview.

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