India,Bhutan step up eco ties,to cooperate on keeping border secure

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Thimphu, May 16 (UNI) India today decided to step up economic cooperation with Bhutan by working on new joint hydel projects and a railway line and hoped the Himalayan Kingdom would continue to ensure that its territory was not used for anti-India activities.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who arrived here today at the start of a two-day visit, said India looked forward to continuing its cooperation with Bhutan on issues related to the national interests of the two countries and ensuring that their territories were not used for activities harmful to each other's national security and interest.

''In a world that is plagued by violence, Bhutan is a bastion of peace and tranquility,'' he said at a banquet hosted in his honour by his Bhutanese counterpart Lyonchhen Jigme Y Thinley here tonight.

Dr Singh was obviously referring to the operations carried out by the Bhutanese army in December, 2003 and January, 2004 to evict insurgent groups that had set up camps on Bhutanese soil.

At their formal talks today, the two sides agreed to continue their cooperation to keep their border safe and secure.

Dr Singh also welcomed Bhutan into the fraternity of democratic nations and assured the Himalayan Kingdom of its full support and cooperation in this new and exciting journey.

''I would like to congratulate you for your success in the recent elections and for Bhutan's smooth transition to a democratic constitutional monarchy'', he said.

At their talks, the two sides decided to double the target for joint development of hydro-electricity capacity in the Himalayan Kingdom to 10,000 MW by 2020 and speed up work on a proposed 28-km railway link from Hashimara in West Bengal to Phuntshoeling across the border.

''The best in India-Bhutan relations is yet to come,'' Dr Singh declared during talks with King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk and with his Bhutanese counterpart Lyonchen Jigme Y Thinley.

Briefing journalists after the talks, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said Bhutan had promised to ensure that its territory was not used by elements inimical to India and keep their 700-km long open border safe and secure.

India also promised to stay...picking up from para 11 of DF 17 EXTERNAL-OVERALL LEAD PM-BHUTAN.

UNI SA HS BD2245

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