Thimphu: Making Bhutan his first foreign destination, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today vowed to nurture bilateral relations which he described as “B4B - Bharat for Bhutan and Bhutan for Bharat” as he held wide-ranging talks with the Bhutanese King and the Premier.
Embarking on a two-day trip here to display “special and unique” status for Bhutan in India's foreign policy, Prime Minister Modi also inaugurated the Supreme Court complex built by India as part of the developmental cooperation.
“The primary focus of both the meetings was the extensive development cooperation between the two countries and measures to enhance the economic ties,” official sources said. During his talks, Modi assured Bhutan's leadership that India is committed to its happiness and progress even though the government in Delhi has changed.
Speaking at a banquet hosted by Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay here, he said India and Bhutan are “made for each other” considering the “glorious” traditional linkages between the two countries.
“I said a while back B for B (Bharat for Bhutan and Bhutan for Bharat), I said it just like that but later I realised that it must be a sign from God that I said this,” Modi said.
“The colour of our passports may be different but our thinking is the same...India stands committed to Bhutan's happiness and progress,” asserted the Prime Minister, who chose this country as his first foreign destination to send out a signal about special treatment for it.
He said though government in India has changed, Bhutan remains a priority for New Delhi and it will strengthen the relations further.
Referring to Bhutan's unique trait of laying thrust on ‘Gross National Happiness' rather than Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Modi said, “In the guarantee of happiness, it is important what type of a neighbour you get, some time you get a neighbour that inspite of having all the happiness and prosperity you cannot live in peace.”
The Prime Minister's comments about India being a good neighbour assume significance since China has lately intensified efforts to woo it and establish full-fledged diplomatic ties with Thimphu.
He also specified areas like peace and security, conservation and tourism as the focus of bilateral ties. Earlier, sources said Modi during his meeting with Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk and Prime Minister Tobgay described the bilateral relations as “B2B relations - Bharat to Bhutan relations.”
Modi announced doubling of scholarships being provided to Bhutanese students in India which will now be worth Rs two crore.
Prime Minister Modi also promised to assist Bhutan in setting up a digital library which will provide access to Bhutanese youth to two million books and periodicals. Modi, accompanied by External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, was accorded a grand welcome as he arrived at the Paro airport and was received by Tobgay and several of his Cabinet colleagues.
The Bhutanese government rolled out the red carpet as Modi was given a ceremonial guard of honour. The Prime Minister drove down from Paro to Thimphu, a distance of about 50 km, traversing through the picturesque mountainous ranges. Common people, including children, in colourful attire lined up most of the road between Paro and Thimphu, waving Indian and Bhutanese flags.
Big hoardings carrying Modi's photographs also could be seen en route.
Modi's meeting with the Bhutanese King lasted for nearly an hour and then he held talks with Tobgay. Modi expressed satisfaction at India being considered as a privileged partner of Bhutan and underlined that his government “would not only nurture these strong bonds but would also strengthen them.”
Prime Minister Modi emphasised on the possibilities of greater educational contacts and suggested doubling of scholarships being provided to Bhutanese students in India. Modi thanked the Bhutanese leadership for the warm welcome that had been arranged for him, saying this reflected the warmth in the bilateral relations.
“I will remember this all my life,” he said.
“He applauded the personal efforts made in ensuring the success of his first visit outside India,” the sources said. During his meeting with the Bhutanese King, Prime Minister Modi invited him and his wife Jetsun Pema to visit India.