The Indian Foreign Secretary (FS) Mr Ranjan Mathai, currently in the country, interacted with the local media on Thursday. He is accompanied by the Joint Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs, Mr Akhilesh Mishra.
The FS first visited Bhutan in 1985, and shortly after taking the post of Foreign Secretary in 2011.
At the banquet hall of Taj Tashi he said, “Last year group of journalists from Bhutan came to Delhi for a meeting, two journalists asked why I never meet with the press. That is why, I promised to do so next time when I visited.”
Mr Ranjan Mathai arrived in Bhutan on 15 May for regular consultations with the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB), basically on bilateral relationships between the two countries. He had a long discussion with the Foreign Secretary of Bhutan, and on the morning of the 16 May, he had a ‘productive and useful session’ with the Chief Advisor of interim government Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye.
He reported that he also ‘had the privilege to meet His Majesty the fifth King.’
“I discussed all the aspects of bilateral relationship with Bhutan, with emphasis on achieving common objectives obviously the development agenda,” Mr Ranjan Mathai said. He noted that he was happy with the progress after reviewing large items on the development agenda.
The Indian FS said he was pleased with the meetings held, and was also delighted to meet large number of people in a social setting. He had met with Cabinet Secretary, Finance Secretary, the Secretaries of the GNH Commission, Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labor and Ministry of Human Resources, Ministry of Health, and other senior government officials.
“By checking on the outcomes with some designated projects jointly with Government of Bhutan, we are both satisfied with this fixed common agenda which is development, and my colleague, Joint Secretary, will come back to Bhutan very soon,” Mr Ranjan Mathai said.
“Finance Ministry of India was forced to cut down expenditure to bring fiscal deficit within the range of exceptional target. All the ministries were said to reduce the expenditure. As part of cutting down government expenditure, Ministry of External Affairs also faced budget cut. They tried to minimize effect of budget cut as much as possible.”
Mr Ranjan Mathai also noted that despite many cuts on development programs, hydropower remains a priority. He said, “We were able to get, even as late March with end of financial year, additional money to ensure the construction of hydro power projects. It will continue and our commitment of development of hydro power remains as it was.”