NEW YORK: Building bridges with its neighbourhood has been one of the top priorities for India’s foreign policy. On September 25, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly session after his address to the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York. Praising Mr Modi’s speech, Mr Tobgay termed the speech ‘visionary’. Bhutan also reiterated its support for India’s permanent membership in a reformed Security Council. “Bhutan said it is an anomaly that a country like India is still not a ‘permanent member’ of the Council,” said Mr Swarup.
Hydro power projects figured prominently in discussions Once the hydro projects started by India get completed in Bhutan, it would save 11 million metric tonnes of carbon, according to India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, Vikas Swarup.
India and Bhutan discussed sustainable development goals, climate change, progress on small development projects that India is implementing in Bhutan and the potential of tourism to become another strong bridge in Indo-Bhutanese ties. Coming to one of the most important projects in South Asia, which is the sub-regional cooperation between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal better known as the BBIN grouping, Mr Tobgay said it was time for the four countries to take new initiative and look beyond motorways and find newer areas to cooperate in.
On June 15, 2015, the transport ministers of four South Asian neighbours signed a landmark Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) in Thimphu. The agreement is expected to pave the way for seamless movement of goods and people across their borders, encouraging regional integration and economic development. The MVA will help reduce transport costs and it will foster the development of transit facilities and multimodal transport that will in turn promote greater trade and improve connectivity between the BBIN countries.
“We could now start looking at other projects in other sectors as well,” said Mr Tobgay. Bhutan is energy starved and India assisting its neighbour augurs well for strengthening cooperation not just between India and Bhutan, but also on focussing on improving connectivity in South Asia through sub-groupings such as BBIN.
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