By Ashok Dixit
New Delhi, May 16 : Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh today left for Bhutan on a two-day official visit.
Enhancing economic and hydropower cooperation between India and Bhutan will be the key focus areas of the Prime Minister's visit.
The visit will focus on forging a more diversified and contemporary economic and energy partnership in tune with emerging realities.
Dr. Singh will land in Paro today and will go to Bhutanese capital Thimphu. He will call on King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk and meet with Prime Minister Lyonpo Jigme Thinley.
The two delegations will also meet after a one-to-one meeting between the two leaders.
Talks between the Indian and Bhutanese delegations will also focus on implementing the 1095-megawatt Punatsangchu I Hydroelectric Project, besides taking negotiations on detailed project reports (DPRs) for Punatsangchu-II and Mangdechu Hydroelectric Projects forward with the intention of completing it within Bhutan's Ninth Five-Year Plan.
On Saturday, the Prime Minister will address a joint session of the Bhutanese Parliament, which comprises of a National Assembly of 47 to 55 members and the National Council, which comprises of 25 members, five of whom are nominated by the King. This will be followed with him laying the foundation stone of the Tala Hydroelectric Project and lunch with the previous King Jigme Singye Wangchuk.
1,020-megawatt Tala Hydropower Project at Chukha Dzongkhag in western Bhutan is said to be the largest joint venture between India and Bhutan, and a symbol of their collaboration in power generation.
The visit will also provide the Prime Minister with an insight into the democratic transformation of Bhutan, a nation of over 600,000 people that once prided itself on its isolation, measuring its wealth in terms of gross domestic happiness.
The visit will also be used to celebrate a century of the Wangchuk Dynasty. The transition in Bhutan should be termed as remarkable, as half a century ago, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru spent a month travelling to Bhutan by horse and yak, and now the current Prime Minister was landing in Paro in an aircraft, a sign of progress in terms of connectivity, economic integration, contacts at the high level, mutual trust and understanding.
The revised Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty of February 2007, which was signed during the visit of the present King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk to Delhi when he was his country's Crown Prince, reflected the desire of the two countries to not only enhance economic cooperation, but also served as an excellent identity of views developed over the years.
The new treaty also reaffirms the two countries desire to maintain the safety and security of their shared 700-kilometre-long open border.
The Prime Minister will leave Bhutan for Bagdogra on the 17th afternoon, where he will address a press conference before embarking for New Delhi.