India and Bhutan ink about a dozen pacts, MoUs

India and Bhutan ink about a dozen pacts, MoUs

King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (L) greets Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at a meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday. AFP

The fifth King of Bhutan, who is here on his maiden foreign visit since his coronation in November last year, held one-on-one and delegation level talks with Singh during which both the leaders discussed wide-ranging issues including that of bilateral and regional interests.

Briefing reporters about the meeting, Foreign Affairs Ministry's official spokesman Vishnu Prakash said several agreements and MoUs were signed, including pacts on initiating DPRs for the Amochu (620 MW), Kuri-Gongri (1800 MW), Chamkarchu-I (670 MW) and Kholongchhu (486 MW)projects.

Asserting that both countries attach "highest importance" to development of hydro projects in Bhutan, Prakash said it has been decided that New Delhi will help Thimphu to achieve a target of 10,000 MW of power by 2020.

He said, at present the total installed capacity of Bhutan to generate power is at 1500 MW, out of which 400 MW is used domestically and rest surplus is sold to India.
During the meeting, the Prime Minister described the Kings's visit as "historic" and termed Bhutan as "India's closest friend and neighbour" while the King assured Singh that his country was "mindful of India's interest", the spokesman said, adding there are no "diversions or outstanding issues" between the two countries. Singh also assured the Bhutan King that India will not leave any stone unturned to make next year's SAARC Summit, to be held in Bhutan, as "memorable and successful", Prakash said.

He said the Prime Minister also wished success to the democratic process in Bhutan and stressed on the need for greater Parliamentary exchanges between the two countries.
Giving the details of the MoUs, he said besides an MoU to set up a super-speciality hospital on the lines of the AIIMS in Bhutan with the technical and expert support from India at the cost of Rs 25 crore as grant-in-aid, one in the field of IT at the cost of Rs 205 crore has also been signed.

This is expected to benefit nearly 2,00,000 rural children and will make half of Bhutan's population e-literate.

In the area of civil aviation, an 'Air Services Agreement' pertaining to expansion of international air services and ensuring the safety and security in the services was signed by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and Bhutanese Minister of Economic Affairs Khandu Wangchuk.

Other MoUs signed between the two countries included one on 'Drug Demand Reduction and Prevention of Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Substances and Precursor Chemicals and Related Matters', 'Consultancy Services for Preparation of National Transmission Grid Master Plan' and 'Technical Assistance for the National Environment Commission Secretariat of Bhutan'.

An MoU providing for 'Cooperation of Search and Rescue Operations' to promptly exchange information in the field was also signed between the two countries. They also signed a pact in the seed quality testing field.

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