Terming his just-concluded state visit to Bhutan as very successful and his “most memorable”, President Pranab Mukherjee hoped on Saturday that bilateral relations between the two countries would continue to grow from strength to strength.
“I was delighted to be in Bhutan – the abode of happiness. I have travelled many times to Bhutan in different capacities and my association with this beautiful country dates back to the early 80s when I began my public career. Through these past decades, I have always worked for stronger, enhanced relations between our two countries. I am privileged to be a friend of Bhutan,” Mukherjee said.
The president was given a warm send-off at the Paro airport by Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and his wife, as he departed after his two-day visit, the first by an Indian head of state to the Himalayan kingdom in 26 years.
“I was deeply touched by the warmth of the reception I received and am happy to see a festive atmosphere across the country. I am impressed by the remarkable progress of Bhutan in improving the quality of life of its people while preserving its cultural identity,” he said.
“The main purpose of my visit was to strengthen our multi faceted relations and consolidate our ties. In keeping with our longstanding historical and civilisation linkages and strengthening people-to-people contacts, we have extremely close ties based on shared values as well as commonality of interests and objectives,” he said.
“I discussed all issues of mutual interest, including those of bilateral and regional importance with the King of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay.
“Our mutual security interests are closely intertwined. Our border security cooperation in the past has been excellent. Both sides have reiterated their determination not to allow their territory to be used by interests inimical to the other.
“India is proud to be a privileged partner in Bhutan’s advancement and growth. I am happy that our assistance is being effectively utilised in important sectors like education, roads and bridges, agriculture, health, cultural preservation and hydropower,” Mukherjee said.
Education is a focus area of the visit as Mukherjee reiterated support of the Indian government to education and capacity building of Bhutan.
The president launched the School Reform Programme of the Bhutanese government, a Rs 3,487.2 million Indian governmentassistance project and inaugurated the Yelchen Central School.
The Bhutanese government expressed their support for the revival of the historic Nalanda University and agreed to be part of this international collaboration in the pursuit of re-establishment of linkages of knowledge across the world.
By signing the MoU on the establishment of Nalanda University, Bhutan became only the second country outside the East Asia Summit process to do so.
“Building on our extensive assistance in capacity building across various sectors we agreed to strengthen our training programmes in the areas of agriculture, food production and post-harvest technology,” Mukherjee said.
He said that the relationship between the two nations serves as a model to the rest of South Asia and the world.
The president concluded by saying that India and Bhutan are close neighbours living in harmony with each other and is coordinating their approaches in line with each other’s needsand concerns.
“This visit is one of my most memorable visits abroad. I am confident that our bilateral relations will continue to grow from strength to strength,” Mukherjee said.