Tobgay pledges to strengthen Bhutan-India bond

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Photo - PTI
Photo – PTI

New Delhi, 21 Jul (PTI): Seeking to put behind recent irritants that have crept into Bhutan’s special ties with India, the Himalayan Kingdom’s Prime Minister-elect Tshering Tobgay today pledged to further strengthen the bonds while refusing to label the close interaction as “interference” by India.

Asking India to urgently re-start supply of subsidised gas as it was impacting on the poor of his country, the 47-year-old Bhutanese leader also said he has accepted the invitation of the Indian Prime Minister and would like to visit India as soon as possible to “assure the people and government here that regardless of which government comes to power in Bhutan, our relationship will only grow from strength to strength.”

Tobgay, whose political party PDP got the majority seats in recently-held second round of democratic elections, during an interview to PTI also termed as “waste of time and money” the efforts by his predecessor for Bhutan’s candidature for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council, saying his party was opposed to the bid.

On the reinstatement of subsidised gas supply from India, he said, “Even though my party is yet to form a government, I have had very reassuring discussions with the Indian Ambassador in Thimphu on this subject.”

The subsidy cut, just before the elections, had come against the backdrop of apparent unhappiness over the meeting between Bhutan PM Jigme Thinley and Chinese leader last year.

He had a meeting with the Chinese premier in Rio and also imported some 20 buses from China, a development which had taken India by surprise.

Asked what kind of ties Bhutan will seek with China under his leadership, Tobgay, without elaborating, said, “Bhutan has a long border with China to our North which is yet to be finalised. We will continue to work towards an amicable resolution of this issue.”

On his predecessor’s meeting with the Chinese leader, Tobgay said, “I was the leader of the Opposition at the time and was given to understand that the meeting in Rio was to lobby for our candidature for a non-permanent seat to the UN Security Council. My party always opposed our UNSC bid which ended up being a waste of our time and money.”

The Harvard-educated leader also observed that the Indian leadership and successive Kings in Bhutan have forged excellent relations between the two nations based on fraternal goodwill, mutual understanding, and shared interests.

“I would like to further strengthen these bonds so that we can continue to move forward with total trust and confidence in each other. I would not label our close interaction and the assistance we receive from India as interference.

“The people of Bhutan are very grateful to the Government and People of India for the assistance we have received over the last half-century. We hope it continues as in the past, Tobgay said.

On the challenges before him, he said economic issues such as Bhutan’s current account deficit and liquidity crisis and the need to continue strengthening democratic institutions in a young democracy are some of the major challenges before his government.

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