Bhutan,17May:Following is the text of the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s address at the National Assembly of Bhutan, in Thimphu:“It is a great privilege for me to address the Joint Session of the National Assembly and the National Council of Bhutan. I bring to you the warmest greetings and felicitations of the Government and people of India.I am delighted to be in your beautiful country at this historic time, and to celebrate with the people of Bhutan their towering achievements.This is the centenary year of the Wangchuck Dynasty, the year of the coronation of His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck as the King of Bhutan and of Bhutan’s transition to a democratic constitutional monarchy.
It is a tribute to the enlightened leadership and statesmanship provided by His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck that Bhutan has succeeded in reaching these milestones in an atmosphere of utmost peace and stability while steadily improving the welfare of her people. During His Majesty’s reign, Bhutan has witnessed unprecedented social and economic development. He is the architect of Bhutan’s constitution and polity. Today His Majesty’s vision of vesting sovereignty in the people of Bhutan has borne fruit.
As Bhutan enters a new era in its history, you can continue to count on India, as a friend and – may I say – an admirer of Bhutan. India will stand by you as a factor of stability and support in your quest for greater prosperity and happiness.
As the first ever elected representatives of your people, you bear a special responsibility, and have a unique opportunity, to translate the aspirations of your people into reality.
While we in India have considerable experience in attempting to bring about socio-economic transformation within the framework of a democratic polity, we do not claim a monopoly of wisdom and knowledge.
But we do know that democracy is not merely about holding elections. Democracy requires sustained commitment to tolerance and the judicious exercise of power as a societal trust to be used for public good. It requires a deep commitment to the rule of law. It requires the building of strong institutions of governance and respect for the other’s viewpoint.
I can assure you that you have our wholehearted support as you enter this new and exciting phase in your country’s history. We will work with you to realize your full potential, in a manner and pace that suits your own chosen path of development and your priorities.
India is proud of its exemplary relations with Bhutan. Our bilateral relationship is no artificial political construct. It draws its strength from geography, from history, scholarship, religion and culture and ancient commercial and people-to-people contacts. The shared aspirations of our common destiny have been given expression by contemporary statesmanship.
Just as strands of many colours are woven together to make a beautiful kira, so the many and varied strands that constitute the tapestry of our relationship come together.
Guru Padmasambhava and many learned Buddhist thinkers carried Lord Buddha’s wisdom and learning from the great universities of India to these mountains. But no less have the Himalayas been a source of inspiration for India over the centuries. Our sages and thinkers have sought enlightenment here.
In the modern era, the foundations of our relations were laid by the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. 50 years ago Pandit Nehru travelled to Bhutan and witnessed the love and affection showered upon him by the men, women and children of Bhutan. Pandit Nehru’s visit left an indelible impression on him and convinced him of the potential and richness of India-Bhutan relations. He said at that time, and I quote :
‘Our only wish is that you should remain a independent country choosing your own way of life and taking the path of progress according to your will. At the same time, we two should live with mutual goodwill.’
Based on this vision, India and Bhutan have created a unique, unparalleled and time-tested partnership of peace and friendship.
Today our relations are a model of how two neighbouring countries, uneven in physical size and attributes, can coexist in perfect harmony and understanding. Both our countries have a vital stake in each other’s well-being and prosperity.
We have evolved a comprehensive framework for economic, commercial and trade linkages. Our development cooperation encompasses varied areas such as health, education, infrastructure, culture, urban development, human resource development, media and telecommunications.
Time has, however, moved on, and so have our two countries. As we enter a new era in our ties and a new century, I come to seek and reinforce the same meeting of minds, the same depth of understanding and the same confluence of thoughts and aspirations that have characterized our relations thus far, to guide us in the future. As partners, confident in our friendship and mutual security, we will work together to make our friendship gain added strength with the passage of time.
The signing of the India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty in February 2007 was a watershed event. The Treaty enshrines the principles that continue to underpin our relations. It has laid the basis for a relationship that is responsive to each other’s national interests, a relationship that is consultative, and a relationship that ensures mutually beneficial cooperation. The Treaty symbolizes our conviction that stability, peace and economic advancement are the most durable guarantors of peaceful co-existence and mutual respect for each other.
We applaud the vision for Bhutan that has been laid down by His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. His Majesty’s deep concern for the people of Bhutan and determination to create a policy framework that maximizes their potential holds great promise for Bhutan.
In the coming years, the challenge before both Bhutan and India will be to evolve a model of sustainable, inclusive and equitable development. We would like you to know that we remain at your disposal to share our experiences, including in those areas where we have had some success.
Bhutan is a shining example of an industrious people blessed with a wise leadership. We have much to learn from you on how to pursue economic development that is neither at the expense of a fragile eco-system nor a country’s social and cultural traditions. The concept of Gross National Happiness has particular resonance in today’s world of unbridled materialism and consumerism.
An India-Bhutan partnership for the future must harness our mutual strengths and complementarities. Our desire is to create a framework that puts people at the heart of our cooperation. The young profile of our two populations makes it incumbent upon us to meet their aspirations. Economic strategies would need to be employment friendly. We have to invest much more in the area of human resource development, skill generation and education.
The Indian market offers vast opportunities for Bhutan’s agriculture, industry and services sectors. We will work towards the further improvement of connectivity between our two countries so that our borders become the gateways for mutually beneficial undertakings. There is vast scope for the further expansion of people-to-people contacts, exchange of scholars and experts.
We should evolve a development and economic cooperation strategy that complements our mutual resource endowments. We know we are on the right path when electricity generated in the mountains and valleys of Chukha, Kurichhu and Tala lights homes in Bihar, West Bengal and Delhi and generates wealth for Bhutan.
India and Bhutan are well placed to create a new paradigm for inter-governmental cooperation in the areas of water security and environmental integrity. The Himalayan glaciers are our common asset and we can do much more together to devise strategies to combat global warming.
Over the past four decades and more our two countries have worked closely in the process of Bhutan’s planned development. We remain committed to working with Bhutan in support of the 10th Five-Year Plan. This period will lay the building blocks for Bhutan’s development and support your vision for tomorrow. We will develop our cooperation during the 10th Plan with imagination and flexibility, in accordance with your priorities in human resource development, education, Information and Communication Technologies, health, infrastructure and numerous other fields.
We also look forward to strengthening institutional linkages with the Bhutanese judiciary, the Election Commission and other constitutional bodies. Our parliamentary resources and facilities remain available to you to draw upon.
In the area of hydropower development, we will work with Bhutan to develop two new mega hydropower projects, Punatsangchhu-II and Mangdechhu. We will commence the preparation of detailed project reports for four new projects. Implementation of these projects will help us achieve the target of export of at least 5000 megawatts of electricity from Bhutan to India by 2020, in a manner that is environmentally sustainable.
I am particularly happy to inform this august House that we will begin construction of the first ever rail link between India and Bhutan, connecting Hashimara to Phuentsholing, called the “Golden Jubilee Rail Line”. This link will connect Bhutan to the entire railway network of India.
We will also institute a Nehru-Wangchuck Scholarship to encourage students from Bhutan to study in leading Indian universities and institutions.
As we draw all these threads together, our bilateral economic engagement with Bhutan over the next five years will be of the order of Rs. 100 billion. My audience with His Majesty the King and my discussions with His Excellency Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Thinley have convinced me that the future of our relationship is bright. In this great hall of democracy, I sense an air of optimism and self-confidence. You stand on the threshold of change, and you have our best wishes for your success.
India desires to see a South Asia which is at peace with itself. We wish to contribute to ever widening circles of security, peace and prosperity in our region. It is with this objective that we look towards working further with Bhutan, in both the bilateral and regional context. A Bhutan that is sovereign, prosperous and secure is central to our vision for the future.