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Strong India will benefit Saarc region, says Bhutan

Thimphu (PTI): India and Bhutan on Monday decided to scale up their bilateral relations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreeing with the neighbouring country that a “strong” and “prosperous” India can help smaller countries in the region.

Just before winding up his two-day visit to the Himalayan kingdom, Modi, who was given a rare honour of addressing the joint session of Bhutan’s Parliament, agreed with Speaker of the National Assembly Jigme Zangpo that the stronger India is, the better it is for Bhutan.

At the end of the visit, the first foreign outing since he took over three weeks ago, the two countries came out with a joint statement that reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthening the special relationship between the two countries. The two countries agreed to continue with their close coordination and cooperation on issues relating to their national interests, and not allow each other’s territory to be used for interests inimical to the other, the joint statement said.

The prime minister also said both India and Bhutan have seen transitions of power but their relationship has remained strong.

He said that change in government will not alter the dynamics of Indo-Bhutan ties, as he vowed to further deepen the relationship through certain new proposals like organising joint sports events between Bhutan and India’s north-eastern states and setting up a Himalaya University for joint research.

Asserting that, “terrorism divides, tourism unites,” Modi said Bhutan has immense potential in the tourism sector.

He said development of tourism does not require large investment but can yield substantial profit and even the poor can benefit from it.

“Strong Bhutan will benefit India like a strong and prosperous India will be beneficial for the countries of the region, especially the Saarc members. India’s prosperity is important as then it can help small countries and perform its duty of a good neighbour. But if India is weak and struggling with its own problems, then how can it help others,” he said.Modi said India was always conscious of its responsibility towards its neighbours and in this context referred to the invitation extended to Saarc leaders for his swearing-in ceremony last month. “It added sheen to the event.”

On Indo-Bhutan ties, he said, “Governments have changed but that has not affected the closely-knit ties,” and quoted former Bhutan King to say that India and Bhutan were like “milk and water”. Modi electronically laid the foundation stone for 600 MW Kholongchu Hydro-electric project, a joint venture between India and Bhutan.

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