PM to embark on 'electricity diplomacy' with Bhutan on May 16

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New Delhi, May 13 (UNI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will dedicate the 1020 MW Tala hydro-electric project, built with India's assistance, to Bhutan and also lay the foundation of the 1095 MW Punatsangchhu project during his two-day visit to the Himalayan kingdom on May 16-17.

During the visit, the Prime Minister will address a joint session of Bhutan's first elected Parliament, the External Affairs Ministry announced here today.

Bhutan, a recent democracy, went to polls in March for the first time and overwhelmingly elected the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), (the Bhutan Peace and Prosperity party,) led by former Prime Minister Jigme Thinley.

''The visit, at the invitation of the Royal Bhutanese Government, is in keeping with the tradition of regular visits and exchange of views at the highest levels between the two countries,'' a spokesman of the Ministry said.

The Prime Minister will also call on Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

He will hold discussions with Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigme Y.

Thinley on issues of mutual interest, including India's development cooperation with Bhutan.

''India and Bhutan share uniquely warm and cordial relations characterised by close consultations, maturity, complete trust and mutual understanding,'' the spokesman said.

The two countries signed an agreement in 2002 as a result of which India is committed to importing 5,000 MW of power by 2020.

Last year, India imported five billion units of power from Bhutan at a cost of Rs 975 crore.

From the 336 MW Chukha hydro-power project, built in 1980s, to the 1,020 MW Tala project and the 1,095 MW Punatsangchhu hydro-electric project, Bhutan has ensured that its 35,000 MW hydro-power potential, the largest in the world, is environment-friendly and contributes to its economy.

India will be a major beneficiary of the power-projects in Bhutan.

UNI RB AKJ NS1600

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