New Delhi: India and Bhutan recognised that their long-standing development partnership is reflective of strong ties of cooperation and friendship based on trust and mutual understanding, a joint statement by the two countries said Wednesday.
The document was released a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck held wide-ranging talks to further expand the already close ties between the two countries.
The talks between Modi and the king came days after Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lotay Tshering said that China has an equal say in resolving the border dispute relating to Doklam tri-junction.
Tshering’s comments were seen by many in New Delhi as an attempt by the Himalayan nation to cosy up to Beijing though Bhutan maintained that there is no change in its stance on the border dispute involving the tri-junction.
“India and Bhutan share an exemplary bilateral relationship characterised by trust, goodwill and mutual understanding at all levels, strong bonds of friendship and close people-to-people contacts,” the joint statement said.
It said Modi and the king agreed to closely work together for progress and development in the region as economies recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The King of Bhutan shared valuable perspective and insights on the significant reforms process underway in Bhutan,” it said.
The statement said the King conveyed appreciation for the invaluable support that India continues to provide for Bhutan’s socio-economic development.
“Guided by the philosophy of gross national happiness, and in consonance with the priorities of the people and royal government of Bhutan, both sides recognised that the long-standing Bhutan-India development partnership, is reflective of strong ties of friendship and cooperation based on trust and mutual understanding,” it said.
In the talks, it was also agreed to extend India-Bhutan energy partnership in the area of non-hydro renewables, such as solar and wind as well as in green initiatives.
“On the proposed trilateral hydropower cooperation among Bhutan, Bangladesh and India, both sides expressed their commitment towards greater sub-regional cooperation, including in the energy sector, which would lead to increased inter-linkages between the economies for mutual benefit of all stakeholders,” the statement said.
It said both sides agreed to further expand bilateral cooperation in areas of trade, technology, cross-border connectivity, and mutual investments, following was agreed upon:
The two sides also agreed to work on long-term sustainable arrangements for export of agricultural commodities from Bhutan and import of essential agricultural commodities from India.
They also decided to explore long-term bilateral arrangements for assured supply of critical commodities from India to Bhutan such as petroleum, fertilizers, and coal.
The statement said the two sides also agreed to take forward the project on the proposed cross border rail link connecting Kokrajhar in Assam to Gelephu in Bhutan based on the engineering and technical survey completed by Indian Railways.
“This will be a historic project as it will be the first ever rail link between India and Bhutan and will enhance the regional connectivity infrastructure as well,” it said.
It said to expedite the operationalisation of the third international internet gateway for Bhutan, India is extending a concessional rate to reduce the cost of its operations.
The statement said the King’s visit provided an opportunity for both countries to review the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation and to advance our close bilateral partnership.