In a packed Parliament hall on Monday the visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit all the right notes in his address to the joint sitting.
However, the most impor-tant statement for Bhutan was assurances from Modi in terms of a continuity of India’s friendly policy towards Bhutan despite a change in the government. This was later spelled out by India’s Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj who in a Press Conference said that all commitments made by the previous UPA government to Bhutan would be fulfilled.
He said that India and Bhutan’s rela-tionship was not between just governments which kept changing but it was deeper than that and the relations had always been strong. He said that the tide between the two countries was historic and nurtured by generations past.
He said the relationship is also based on a shared cultural heritage. ‘We have opened our hearts for each other’, Modi said, adding that leaderships may change, but the open hearts will not close, and the heritage that this relationship represented would be nur¬tured by future generations. “India’s people and Government are committed to it,” he said.
Another significant point Modi made was that after the good election results it was expected that he would visit a powerful or big country. “But my inner voice told me to visit Bhutan and so the decision to visit Bhutan first is entirely my own given our good relations,” said Modi.
The Indian PM picking up on a state-ment by Speaker Jigme Zangpo who said that the better India does the better it is for Bhutan said, “A strong India is good not only for Bhutan but the entire SAARC region because whenever countries face prob-lems they turn to neighbors for help and it is important to help. A strong India without any internal problems will be able to help.”
The Indian Prime Minister talked about his invitation to the SAARC leaders for his inauguration and he thanked the Bhutanese Prime Minister for coming.
Modi also praised Bhutanese democracy paying special compliment to the Monarchy for voluntarily giving up power when everywhere else people were running after power. He also reserved praise for the Bhutanese elected leaders and the voters for a young but successful, stable and self reliant democracy.
The Prime Minister said that seven years is a short time in the history of a country’s democracy. But in this short time, the people of Bhutan have developed faith in the institutions of democracy. “There has also been a change in Government which reflects the maturity and awareness of the people.” he added. Modi said India had also witnessed an election recently, and the peo¬ple of India had voted for good governance and development.
The Indian PM also praised Bhutan’s GNH philosophy saying that when others were focusing only on GDP Bhutan was also focused in GNH and happiness. He said that the Bhutanese government was not only bringing about developmental activities but was also concerned that there should be happiness. Modi said that development cannot only be at the state level and GNH insured that every individual is taken care of and is happy.
Modi also praised the hydropower cooperation between the two countries and said that not only was Bhutan and India benefitting but also the whole world as it was a collective contribution to combat global warming.
The Indian PM noted that Bhutan had reserved the highest portion of the budget for education which he said was a wise in-vestment in future generations. He said that in line with this interest shown by the Bhutan government India would help set up an e-library in Bhutan, for the benefit of the youth, which would help them connect with the world. He said India would also double the scholarships that are being given to Bhutanese students. He also pointed to the role of Indian teachers early on in Bhutan’s education system showing that it demonstrated India’s goodwill to strengthen Bhutan from the foundations.
Modi said that to further strengthen relations the Himalayan states of India, along with Bhutan, and perhaps Nepal, could hold a sports meet every year. He said connecting people through sports, brings sportsman spirit, and that contributes to happiness.
He also said that India’s space technology could also be used to help Bhutan develop even more.
Modi said, “People sometimes said the Himalayas separated but the Himalayas united us, as they are a part of our com-mon heritage.” He said people on both sides of the Himalayas looked up to them as a source of strength. The PM said that the need of the hour is to study various aspects of the Himalayas. He said India had already set up a National Action Plan for Climate Change. He said a National Mission for sustaining the Himalayan System could also be considered. He said India also wanted a Central University for Himalayan Studies to be established, and Bhutan would benefit a lot from it.
The Prime Minister said India and Bhu¬tan could together form a holistic approach to tourism, and develop a circuit combining India’s North-Eastern states and Bhutan. He said “Terrorism divides. Tourism unites,” and added that if Bhutan’s natural wealth and capabilities join together, it will be a big invitation for the world.
The Prime Minister referred to a quote from the third King of Bhutan: like milk and water, India and Bhutan cannot be separated. He said the friendship is everlasting, and based on shared cultural heritage. He also thanked the people of Bhutan for the warm welcome they had given him.
In the dinner banquet hosted in his honour the previous evening the Indian PM coined the phrase B4B or Bharat for Bhutan and Bhutan for Bharat.