Time to reflect on advancing ties with Bhutan: Sushma Swaraj

New Delhi: As India and Bhutan celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations this year, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday said that it is an opportunity to reflect about further advancing ties between the two countries.

“The year 2018 is a milestone moment for India-Bhutan partnership as we celebrate the accomplishments of the last five decades of our time-tested and special ties,” Sushma Swaraj said at a function here to mark the occasion.

“It is also an opportunity for us to reflect on how well we could advance this unique partnership to respond to hopes and aspirations of our two peoples for our common prosperity and a better future,” she said at the event which was also attended by Bhutanese Foreign Minister Lyonpo Damcho Dorji.

She said that that India was proud of the special and exemplary ties of friendship and cooperation that it shared with Bhutan, “which are built on shared values and aspirations, utmost trust and mutual respect”.

“It is a unique partnership built on the historical and cultural linkages between the two countries.”

The minister also welcomed the opening of a Consulate of Bhutan in Guwahati in the golden jubilee year, and said this would further strengthen contacts and cooperation, for the mutual benefit of both the countries.

With Wednesday also happening to be the birthday of King of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Sushma Swaraj extended India’s warmest greetings to the King and wished him “good health, happiness and continued success in his pursuit of peace and prosperity for the friendly people” of Bhutan.

“Under the leadership of His Majesty the King of Bhutan, the last 12 years have seen Bhutan mature as a democracy and realising all round development,” she said.

“What is more remarkable is that Bhutan has achieved its socio-economic transformation while preserving its natural heritage and cultural values.”

India and Bhutan share a unique relationship with New Delhi being a leading development aid partner for the Himalayan kingdom

There are a number of institutional mechanisms between India and Bhutan in areas such as security, border management, trade, transit, economic, hydro-power, development cooperation and water resources.

India has set up three hydroelectric projects (HEPs) in Bhutan totalling 1,416 MW, which are operational and exporting surplus power to India. About three-fourths of the power generated is exported and the rest is used for domestic consumption.

India is Bhutan’s largest trading partner. In 2016, bilateral trade stood at Rs 8,723 crore with total imports being Rs 5,528.5 crore (82 per cent of Bhutan’s total imports) and exports recorded at Rs 3,205.2 crore including electricity (90 per cent of Bhutan’s total exports).

At Wednesday’s function, Sushma Swaraj and Dorji jointly cut a ceremonial cake to mark the golden jubilee celebrations.

She said 50 commemorative events and exchanges, cultural and sporting activities would be held across different states in India and Bhutan to mark the occasion.