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Wednesday , December 23 , 2009
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Promise of green shield to Bhutan
The King of Bhutan with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Tuesday. (PTI)

New Delhi, Dec. 22: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today promised Bhutan all possible Indian help to preserve its “ecological sanity”. India has also committed to make half of Bhutan’s seven lakh citizens e-literate by 2014.

The King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk, is on a five-day visit to India — his first to a foreign country after his coronation in November 2008. Both the countries signed a dozen agreements in health, civil aviation, information technology and hydel power sectors.

India will help Bhutan increase its installed hydel power capacity to 10,000mw by 2020. Bhutan makes available all its surplus power to India. “At present, Bhutan’s installed capacity is 1,500mw and its internal demand is 400mw,” said an official spokesperson for the external affairs ministry.

An increase in Bhutan’s hydro-electricity generation will not only help India meet its power requirements but enable the Himalayan Kingdom to augment its income from exports, government sources said. India will also help prepare a National Transmission Grid Master Plan for its neighbour.

Apart from this, India will assist the Himalayan Kingdom to set up a Bhutan Institute of Medical Sciences, a 50-seat undergraduate medical college in Thimphu for which New Delhi will provide Rs 25 crore as grant-in-aid. “The Prime Minister met the Bhutanese king and lauded his vision of Gross National Happiness. He also promised every possible Indian help to Bhutan to maintain its ecological sanity,” the spokesperson said.

Singh described the king’s visit as “historic”. “Bhutan is India’s closest friend and neighbour. India will provide all support for the democratic experiment in Bhutan to succeed,” the spokesperson quoted Singh as saying. India had no divergence in views or outstanding issues with Bhutan, he added. “We in Bhutan are always protective of India-Bhutan friendship and mindful of India’s interests,” the Bhutanese king is understood to have told the Prime Minister.

India has also committed Rs 25 crore for earthquake relief and Rs 205 crore in the IT sector. This will involve setting up 168 IT-enabled schools and making two lakh rural children, apart from government officials and teachers, e-literate. New Delhi had allocated Rs 700 crore as part of the 10th Five Year Plan for investment in sanitation, education, health and water culverts in Bhutan.

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