Jigme to address India’s concerns

New Delhi, August 1:

Talks on Bhutan’s boundary dispute with China, trade ties and New Delhi’s developmental assistance to Thimphu will top the agenda of discussions between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and King Jigme Singye Wangchuck who arrived here today. Bhutan’s recent keenness to resolve the border dispute with China will figure prominently in discussions between Manmohan Singh and Wangchuk, who is on a four-day working visit. The king is likely to address New Delhi’s anxieties about Thimphu’s border talks with Beijing, said diplomatic sources. Bhutan’s secretary for international boundaries Dasho Pema Wangchuk discussed the boundary issue with his Chinese counterparts on July 13-14 during which both sides had reportedly agreed to change the claim line. The king will meet President APJ Abdul Kalam, Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh and other cabinet ministers. He will also meet United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

The British-educated king, who took over at the age of 16 in 1972, was chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations this year. Early this year, he announced the end of a century of absolute monarchy with the publication of a draft constitution to establish a multiparty democracy by the year-end. India recently provided assistance package worth $450 million to Bhutan for its ninth five-year plan ending 2007. New Delhi has extended generous support to five-year plans of Bhutan since their inception in 1961 as part of its effort to spur developmental and modernisation processes in the Himalayan kingdom. Economic cooperation, especially in the hydropower sector, has cemented relations between both countries. This close cooperation has translated into tremendous goodwill for New Delhi in Thimphu and has accelerated cooperation in strategic areas.