Thimphu, May 17: Having spent the better part of his two-day official visit to Bhutan lauding that country's emergence as the youngest democracy in the world and for its improving relations with India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday, cautioned that the challenge before both would be to evolve a "model of sustainable, inclusive and equitable development in the coming years."
Addressing a joint session of the Bhutanese Parliament, comprising of about 70 members, Dr. Singh described Bhutan as a shining example of an industrious people blessed with a wise leadership.
"We have much to learn from you on how to pursue economic development that is neither at the expense of a fragile eco-system, nor a country's social and cultural traditions… An India-Bhutan partnership for the future must harness our mutual strengths and complementarities. Our desire is to create a framework that puts people at the heart of our cooperation," Singh added.
Elaborating, he said that as a first step, economic strategies needed to be employment friendly, and both nations needed to invest more in human resource development, skill generation and education.
In this regard he said the Indian market offered vast opportunities for Bhutan's agriculture, industry and service sectors.
"We will work towards the further improvement of connectivity between our two countries, so that, our borders become the gateways for mutually beneficial undertakings," said Dr. Singh.
Emphatically stating that both India and Bhutan were well placed to create a new paradigm for inter-governmental cooperation in the areas of water scarcity, power generation , connectivity and environmental integrity, he said the upcoming Tenth Five-Year Plan would lay the "building blocks for Bhutan's development and would support its vision of tomorrow".
New Delhi is looking forward to strengthening its institutional linkages with all Constitutional bodies in Bhutan, Dr. Singh said, adding that India's parliamentary resources and facilities would be always available for Bhutan to draw upon.
Referring specifically to the key element of hydropower development, the Prime Minister confirmed that India would develop two new mega hydropower projects – Punatsangchhu-II and Mangdechhu. New Delhi would also commence preparation of detailed project reports (DPRs) for four new projects to achieve the target of exporting at least 5,000 megawatts of electricity from Bhutan by 2020 in an environmentally sustainable manner.
India would also begin construction of the first ever rail link to Bhutan, connecting Hashmmara to Phuentsholing, which would be called the "Golden Jubilee Rail Line", Dr. Singh said, adding that his discussions with the Bhutanese leadership had convinced him that the relationship and its future is bright.
"India desires to see a South Asia at peace with itself. We wish to contribute to the ever widening circles of security, peace and prosperity in our region. It is with this objective that we look towards working further with Bhutan, in both the bilateral and regional context.
He concluded by reminding Bhutan that democracy is not merely about holding elections, but required a sustained commitment to tolerance and the judicious exercise of power as a societal trust to be used for the public good.
In the ultimate analysis, it required a deep commitment to the Rule of Law.