Modi says strong, prosperous India beneficial for Bhutan, SAARC nations

Tuesday, 17 June 2014 00:34 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Reuters: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday (June 16) India’s prosperity is significant and in the interest of Bhutan and SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) nations, adding that his government is committed to make stronger relationship between the two nations. His decision to make tiny Bhutan his first foreign destination was the latest in a series of unconventional policy choices by the new Prime Minister who came to power last month on the promise of making his country an economic and military power. He previously invited South Asian leaders to his inauguration and has exchanged friendly letters with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a bid to re-establish India as the dominant power in the region. Modi, who arrived in Bhutan on Sunday (June 15), was given a ceremonial welcome in Bhutan’s capital Thimphu nestled in mist-covered mountains where he opened a Supreme Court building constructed with Indian assistance. Bhutan, wedged in the Himalayas between India and China is the closest India has to an ally in South Asia, a region home to over 1.5 billion people but held back by bristling rivalries. Modi’s Bhutan visit shows an astute sense of the region’s critical importance to India’s economic dynamism and strategic strength. “India is becoming powerful and with India’s prosperity, it is in the interest of this entire landmass and especially for the SAARC nations. A strong and stable India is needed to make sure that we can help our neighbours with their problems,” said Modi. Modi’s government aims to make India the dominant foreign investor across South Asia as well as the main provider of infrastructure loans, in the same way China has done in much of the rest of Asia and in Africa. In his speech in Bhutan parliament, Modi also proposed sports meet of all Himalayan states and Bhutan. Praising Bhutan for its rich potential for tourism, Modi pitched for a holistic approach to attract tourists. “Terrorism divides and tourism unites. Tourism connects people and promotes development. Bhutan has rich potential for tourism to grow. India should jointly adopt holistic approach and make combined efforts to promote tourism and to attract tourists from across the world,” he said. Bhutan, the size of Switzerland and with a population of 750,000, has only recently emerged from centuries of isolation. Its first road was built in 1962 and television and the Internet arrived in 1999. It is the first country to monitor gross national happiness, an alternative to gross domestic product, to balance a tentative embrace of modernity with an effort to preserve traditions. But Bhutan, which made the transition from absolute monarchy to parliamentary democracy in 2008, is struggling with high unemployment and a growing national debt. The government that took power in 2012 says it wants to focus on obstacles to happiness.