Thimphu, May 16 : India and Bhutan on Friday agreed to double the target of hydroelectricity generation to 10, 000 megawatts from 5,000 megawatts by 2020, a reflection of the level of confidence and trust shared presently between the leaderships of the two countries.
Briefing the media accompanying Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh on his two-day visit to Bhutan, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon also said that India has made a commitment to Bhutan to lay the over 20 kilometer-long railway line from Hashimara, which is about 160 kilometers from Siliguri in West Bengal, to Phuntsholing in Bhutan. Other decisions aimed at furthering the range of Indo-Bhutanese cooperation were also discussed, but they were currently at a preliminary stage of negotiation, and would be revealed in due course, Menon said.
Describing the current visit of the Prime Minister as a "celebratory visit" which was more than adequately reflected by the "extraordinarily warm welcome" accorded to Dr. Singh on his arrival in Paro this morning, and throughout the day, the Indian Foreign Secretary said: " The unique and warm nature of this relationship has been exhibited quite substantially.
A measure of this could be seen by the way Dr. Singh stopped his motorcade midway between Paro and Thimphu to interact with local children and adults in an informal manner, Menon said.
On the meeting between the Prime Minister and King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk, Menon said they discussed their bilateral ties and how best to carry it forward. In his meeting with Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley, and their respective delegations, Dr. Singh and Mr. Thinley expressed satisfaction with the current level of cooperation between the two countries and the prospects for further enhancement of these ties.
Both reiterated their belief in their "shared prosperity and shared security" besides discussing various other aspects of their relationship, said Menon.
He also said that India has reiterated that it will be responsive and committed to Bhutan's development efforts. He said that the Indian Prime Minister particularly praised the Bhutanese quest for "Gross National Happiness", saying many people could learn from this experience. Bhutan, the Prime Minister said was the only country where the GDP and its Green Area has grown together.
Menon confirmed that the Prime Minister would be addressing a joint session of the Bhutanese Parliament on Saturday, besides laying the foundation stones for the Tala and the Punatsangchu-I hydroelectric projects. He would also have lunch with the previous King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuk.
There was also talk of the common understanding on security issues. Menon said India expressed its gratitude to Bhutan for not allowing its soil to be used by "elements inimical to India's interests".
Dr. Singh also congratulated his Bhutanese counterpart on Bhutan's transition from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy and invited Thinley to visit India at the earliest.
When asked about India's contribution to Bhutan's 10th Five-Year-Plan, Menon said that New Delhi and Thimphu have already had two rounds of discussions relating to the plans.
"We have a joint list. We plan to have a third meeting very quickly. India will be responsive to Bhutan's development needs," he said.
Regarding the ongoing cooperation in the hydroelectric sector, Menon said: "We have a plan to do DPRs (detailed project reports) for other projects and plan to have a meeting to see how to achieve this. It is a carry forward relationship, it is a trouble-free relationship and as the Prime Minister told Prime Minister Thinley, The best is yet to come'. By Ashok DixitANI)