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Updated: December 22, 2009 23:53 IST

India will aid in Bhutan’s democracy cause

Sandeep Dikshit
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Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk being welcomed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: R.V. Moorthy
The Hindu Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk being welcomed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: R.V. Moorthy

Among the pacts are four MoUs for hydel projects that would ease power shortage in eastern India considerably. India was also planning a transmission grid that would ultimately evacuate power from the Bhutanese projects all the way to Agra, said official sources.

Describing Bhutan as “India’s closest friend and neighbour,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presided over the signing of a dozen pacts with Thimphu in the presence of King Jigme Khesar here on Tuesday.

In summit-level talks, New Delhi expressed satisfaction with its cooperation in checking the activities of insurgent groups trying to operate from southern Bhutan.

India also agreed to fund nearly a quarter of Bhutan’s Tenth Plan outlay of Rs. 14,800 crore.

“We have no differences or outstanding issues with Bhutan and the discussions were excellent,” noted Dr. Singh. The first state visit of Jigme Khesar was a “milestone in reinforcing and further expanding the already wide canvas of cooperation,” External Affairs Minister spokesman Vishnu Prakash quoted Dr. Singh as saying during the talks.

MoUs on power projects

Among the pacts are four MoUs for hydel projects that would ease power shortage in eastern India considerably. India was also planning a transmission grid that would ultimately evacuate power from the Bhutanese projects all the way to Agra, said official sources.

Dr. Singh assured the King of India’s possible assistance in the success of the democratic experiment in Bhutan.

The two sides exchanged notes on the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) summit scheduled in Bhutan for next year, with India promising help to make it a success.

Signalling the importance India attaches to ties with Bhutan, the delegation-level talks saw the presence of the Ministers for External Affairs, Finance, Home and Power, besides the National Security Adviser, the Foreign Secretary, the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and other senior officials.

Bhutan is already producing about 1,500 MW from the existing power projects; of this, 80 per cent is sold to India. It will receive about the same quantum from two projects on which work is about to start. In addition, project reports have been cleared for four projects that will generate over 6,000 MW. These include the gigantic Sankosh (4,060 MW).

Under the MoUs signed on Tuesday, the projects are expected to yield over 3,500 MW. They are Ammochhu (620 MW) in the southern district of Samtse and Chukha; Kuri Gongri (1,800 MW) in the eastern districts of Monggar and Pema Gatsel; Chamkharchhu (670 MW) in the central Bhutan district of Shemgang; and Kholongchu (486 MW) in the eastern Bhutan district of Tashi Yangtse.

The intention is to extract economically feasible power from all the four major river systems — Torsa, Wangchu (Raidak), Sankosh and Manas.

The projects will not only ease India’s power woes to some extent but also earn revenue for Bhutan. As most of the areas are underdeveloped, there would be economic spinoffs during the construction stage itself, in terms of micro-trade, employment and transport business.

Thanks to sale of power, Bhutan already enjoys a trade surplus of Rs. 414 crore which will grow further when the projects come on stream.

Other MoUs pertain to the setting up of a superspeciality hospital, preventing trafficking in drugs, expanding air services, promoting e-governance and e-literacy, cooperating in search and rescue, providing technical help to the National Environment Secretariat of Bhutan and aiding in the setting up of a Bhutanese national transmission grid.

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