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India, Bhutan to fast-track cooperation in hydel sector

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meeting Bhutan Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meeting Bhutan Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley on Wednesday.
India and Bhutan have agreed to fast-track the implementation of hydropower projects in the Himalayan country and are looking at enhancing cooperation in the information technology (IT)sector.

During meetings between visiting Bhutanese Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmi Y Thinley and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other Indian leaders here yesterday, both sides expressed satisfaction at the progress made by them in the hydropower sector and reiterated their commitment to achieve the target of 10,000 MW of hydroelectric generation in Bhutan by 2020.

Most of the power generated in Bhutan through joint hydel projects is bought by India to meet its growing electricity needs.

The next meeting of the Empowered Joint Group to fast-track implementation of hydel projects will be held in August, 2009. The first meeting was held here in March after signing of the Protocol to the 2006 Agreement on Cooperation in Hydropower.

A joint press release issued by the two sides today said IT was a new focus sector for Bhutan and Mr Thinley visited NIIT, one of India's best-known IT education and training companies.

Dr Singh lauded Bhutan's efforts to develop a knowledge-based economy through IT and assured India's support to its IT and e-governance project.

Mr Thinley spent two days in Kolkata on June 28-29 and arrived here on June 30 on a four-day working visit. He is scheduled to fly back home tomorrow afternoon.

He is accompanied on the visit by Mr Daw Penjo, Foreign Secretary, Dasho Sonam Tshering, Secretary, Ministry of Economic Affairs, and other officials of the Royal Government.

Mr Thinley is the first head of government to visit India during the second term of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government headed by Dr Singh.
Bhutan Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley meeting President Pratibha Patil at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Wednesday.
Bhutan Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley meeting President Pratibha Patil at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Wednesday.

"The visit provides another opportunity to continue the tradition of high-level exchange of views between the two countries," the release said.

In Kolkata, Mr Thinley had discussions with West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on measures to strengthen cooperation between Bhutan and the state. He also met members of the Indian Chamber of Commerce in Kolkata and exchanged views with them on promoting trade, commerce and investments.

In Delhi, apart from his bilateral talks with Dr Singh, Mr Thinley called on President Pratibha Patil. He also met UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.

"All the meetings were very friendly, warm and cordial, reflecting the spirit of trust, cooperation and deep understanding that mark the bilateral relations between India and Bhutan. Discussions covered issues of mutual interest and bilateral cooperation, including cooperation in the hydropower sector, IT and small development projects," the release said.

According to it, Mr Thinley and Dr Singh held extensive talks and exchanged views on various facets of Indo-Bhutan relations and measures to further enhance the relationship.

Mr Thinley conveyed deep appreciation to Dr Singh and other Indian leaders for their contribution to Indo-Bhutan relations. He also expressed gratitude of the Royal Government and people of Bhutan for the unwavering assistance and cooperation extended by India for Bhutan’s development.

The release said both sides exchanged views on regional and international issues. Mr Thinley apprised Dr Singh of the preparations underway to host the 16th SAARC Summit in Thimphu in April 2010. Dr Singh assured full support to Bhutan for hosting the Summit.

Dr Singh conveyed his sympathies for the loss of lives and property caused by the recent flash floods in Bhutan and, as a gesture of solidarity, extended assistance worth Rs. 10 crores to the victims in Bhutan of this tragedy.

"The Prime Ministers of the two countries expressed deep satisfaction with the visit which led to further strengthening of the time-tested ties of friendship, understanding and cooperation between India and Bhutan," the release added.

Mr Thinley had paid a state visit to India in July last year as his country's first democratically elected Prime Minister after Bhutan's transition to a democratic, constitutional monarchy. He again visited India in November last year to participate in the second BIMSTEC Summit in New Delhi.

Dr Singh had visited Bhutan in May last year and, in November, President Pratibha Patil had travelled to Thimphu for the coronation of King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk.

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