President Pranab denies Bhutan visit was triggered by Thimphu-Beijing talks

President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday denied that his state visit to Bhutan was triggered by the recent border talks held between the landlocked kingdom and China.

New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday denied that his state visit to Bhutan was triggered by the recent border talks held between the landlocked kingdom and China.

He said that his visit was prompted by the `great potential` of the relations between New Delhi and Thimphu.

"India-Bhutan relations stand on its own. We have been and continue to be close to each other. There is so much we are doing together and there is such great potential for us to scale new heights in the future. We do not need any third party or third country reason to come close to each other. My visit has absolutely no connection with Bhutan-China talks," President Mukherjee told Bhutan newspaper Kuensel in an interview on the eve of his state visit to the landlocked kingdom.

Speaking of the changes that he had seen in Bhutan during his time in public office, President Mukherjee said the voluntary transfer of power to the people had made the kingdom the envy of many other countries.

"I have been in public affairs for over four decades now. I have been a Member of Parliament for most of this period and held many Ministerial portfolios. Throughout this period, I have also closely followed Bhutan`s growth and evolution led by His Majesty the Fourth King and His Majesty the Fifth King. The momentous changes in Bhutan, the voluntary transfer of power to the people, the drafting of a well thought out Constitution and the successful conduct of two democratic elections with overwhelming participation by the people of Bhutan have all happened peacefully in a short span of time, making Bhutan the envy of many other countries," he said.

"Over the years, I have watched our relationship grow from strength to strength. I have also contributed in whatever way I could to the nurturing of this relationship. In both our countries, there is consensus across the political spectrum that a strong India-Bhutan partnership is in our collective interest," the President added.

Stating that developmental assistance and security cooperation are the basis of the ties between the two nations, President Mukherjee said that relations with Bhutan were of the `utmost importance`, irrespective of which party was in power in New Delhi.

"The tradition of frequent exchanges and close bilateral relations is unbroken over many decades. Developmental assistance and security cooperation have always been and continue to be the bedrock of our relations. India`s commitment to Bhutan has only deepened over the years," he said.

"Irrespective of which political party is in power in India, it will accord the utmost importance to relations with Bhutan. We would like to nurture this relationship to be a win-win partnership that is a model for the entire region. We must in the coming days build on existing ties and at the same time, proactively explore new avenues for cooperation. In fact, 2014 is a year of further consolidation of our relations," he added.

President Mukherjee`s visit to Bhutan, the first bilateral visit by a President of India to that nation in 26 years, is expected to further expand the bilateral partnership and strengthen the close bonds that exist between both nations.

India and Bhutan`s bilateral relations date back to 1949 when the two countries signed the treaty of friendship and cooperation. This treaty, which provides for perpetual peace and friendship, free trade and commerce, and equal justice to each other`s citizens, was updated and signed by King Wangchuck in February 2007.

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