New Delhi: India and Bhutan share very extraordinary ties of friendship and New Delhi is looking forward to strengthening trade and economic relations with Thimphu, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said on Tuesday.
"The cooperation is marked by mutual understanding, goodwill and respect for each other's interests. It is a partnership forged not only by our shared experiences but also by our close historical ties, cultural ties, people-to-people ties at all levels. Our bilateral ties are moving in an upward direction," Gokhale said while addressing a conference on 'India-Bhutan relations--The Road Ahead' here at Sapru House.
Highlighting the efforts taken by the governments of both the countries on the establishment of 50 years of diplomatic relations, the Foreign Secretary said that the ties are time-tested and serve as an exemplary model of good neighbourly relations for the rest of the world.
"As we celebrate our friendship an exemplary bilateral partnership, this golden jubilee year has provided us an excellent opportunity to reflect on new pathways to further expand this unique partnership," Gokhale said. He said that in the last 50 years, both countries have witnessed momentous changes and unprecedented economic growth and prosperity.
Lauding Bhutan's democratic structure, Gokhale said, "Bhutan has adopted a new Constitution and ushered in a democratic constitutional monarchy. The recently concluded third general election in Bhutan is a testament to the very strong and democratic tradition and processes that have now taken root there."
Talking about cooperation in the energy sector, the Foreign Secretary expressed hope that the 720 MW Mangdechhu hydroelectric project would be commissioned in this month.
"In conventional sectors, education, health, Information Technology (IT) and skill development continue to grow, while we hope to expand new frontiers in space technology, where the South Asian satellite provides new opportunities for Bhutan which can provide access to a wide range of applications such as disaster management, weather forecasting, and communication," Gokhale added.
He stressed India's commitment to enhancing connectivity with Bhutan on a wide scale as a central pillar of New Delhi's Neighbourhood First and Act East policies. Gokhale said that Indian and Bhutanese markets offer tremendous opportunities to business communities of both the countries.
"We stand firmly committed to partnering Bhutan in its quest to bring greater prosperity and happiness to its people. While doing so, it is incumbent that we respect priorities of the people and Bhutanese government. As a friend and close partner, India is committed to harnessing true potential of cooperation with Bhutan and exploring new avenues," Gokhale said.