In honour of the Indian President, His Excellency Pranab Mukherjee, a luncheon was hosted by His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen. His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and Their Majesties the Queen Mothers graced the occasion.

Indian President receives a grand and warm welcome

In a special, unprecedented gesture and a break from protocol, His Majesty The King along with Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen received the Indian President, Pranab Mukherjee at the Paro International Airport.

Thousands of Bhutanese citizens and also school children from both villages and towns gathered along the Paro to Thimphu highway to welcome the President of India.

Upon his arrival in Thimphu, the President was escor t e d to the Tashichhodzong in an elaborate Chhipdrel ceremony and presented a Guard of Honour at the courtyard, which was specially prepared for the occasion.

His Majesty The King granted an Audience to the President, following which, His Majesty and President Pranab Mukherjee witnessed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bhutan and the Ministry of External Affairs of India for Bhutan’s participation in the re-opening of Nalanda University.

Schoolchildren from Thimphu performed a song which was composed especially for President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit. Following a cultural program showcasing traditional dances curated particularly for the visit, His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen hosted a luncheon at the Grand Kuenrey of the Tashichhodzong in honour of the President.

The luncheon was graced by His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and Their Majesties the Queen Mothers. The Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, and senior government officials also attended.

According to a press release, His Majesty the King and the President of India covered the entire gamut of bilateral relations. President Pranab Mukherjee noted that there is a perfect understanding of each other’s concerns and sensitivities. President Mukherjee praised the development strategy of Bhutan and its unique emphasis on the happiness of the people, and holistic achievement and development without the destruction of the environment. He described himself as a silent admirer who has watched Bhutan’s progress over the decades. He described hydropower cooperation as “win-win” relationship, and assured Bhutan of India’s continued support.

The President recalled the role played by Bhutan, under the leadership of the Fourth King, in 2003 Operation Flush Out, to successfully flush out the militant extremist. He said the action should serve as an example to all SAARC countries.

President Mukherjee said Bhutan does not indulge in terrorism, does not believe in cross-border terrorism, and makes every serious effort to control and prevent it. The President asserted that Bhutan and India’s security is intricately interlinked and indivisible.

The President lavished praise on Bhutan’s unique democratic experiment, in which the Monarch gave up absolute power voluntarily, and persuaded the people to accept democracy. He compared it the experience of many other SAARC countries, where the people had to engage

in bitter fights for democratic rights. He congratulated Bhutan for passing the democracy test with distinction and honours.

President Mukherjee will also sign an additional three MoUs, the Royal University of Bhutan and English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, the Royal University of Bhutan and National lnnovation Foundation, and the Royal Civil Service Commission and the Indian lnstitute of Management, Ahemdabad.

His Majesty the King paid tribute to the timeless counsel and advice provided by the President. His Majesty said the relationship has stood the test of time and grown exponentially. His Majesty said that both the Prime Minister’s and the President’s visits to Bhutan are huge milestones.

His Majesty described Bhutan’s national priorities as institution building to strengthen democracy, consolidating the economy, education and security. His Majesty also emphasized on Bhutan and India’s security which is interlinked, and what happens in India affects Bhutan and vice versa.

As the demand for energy grows in India, and Bhutan produces clean energy, His Majesty said the cooperation in the energy sector will make the two nations economically interdependent.

The President of India is on a two-day State visit to Bhutan, upon the invitation of His Majesty the King. The last time an Indian President visited Bhutan was President Pratibha Devi Singh Patil in November 2008 as a guest of honour for the Coronation of His Majesty the King.

The President will given an address today on the Indo-Bhutan relations at the Convention Center, Thimphu to an audience comprising of ministers, Parliamentarians, senior officials, and citizens of Bhutan.

Saturday will also witness the launching of the double-laning of the East-West highway, a government of India assisted project which will address balanced regional development in the country.

There will also be launch of the school reform program by the President including inaugurating the Yelchen Central School in Pema Gatsel, both GoI assisted projects. The initiative is to improve the quality and efficiency of education services.

His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo will host a lunch for the President of India. The President of India and his delegation will leave Bhutan at 3.30 pm from the Paro International Airport.

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