SAARC leaders leave the Kingdom

April 30: The Heads of State of SAARC member countries left the country after a successful Summit over the last two days. The leaders were seen off at the Paro airport by the Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley and the Cabinet Ministers.

Alongside the SAARC Summit, the leaders while in Thimphu also held bilateral talks. The Indian Prime Minister Dr. manmohan Singh and Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley exchanged views on SAARC, Indo-Bhutan relations and other issues of mutual interest.

Expressing satisfaction over the unique and special relationship the two countries shared, the leaders said they will continue to build on this bond of friendship.

With Bangladesh, the two leaders discussed the need to expand trade and explore routes to conduct trade by obtaining transit facilities through India.

Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, said Bangladesh will continue to provide scholarships to Bhutanese medical students in Bangladesh.

Pakistan’s President, Yosuf Raza Gilani, of Pakistan, while in Bhutan said that his government will assist Bhutanese pilgrims to visit SWAT province of Pakistan where Guru Padmasambhava was born. This, he said, would be done as soon as the security situation improves in Pakistan.

He said Pakistan could learn from Bhutan in the energy sector particularly that of hydropower.

With the Afghan president Hamid Karzai- the two leaders shared experiences of climate change and noted that the adverse impact of climate change were visible in both the countries including dropping of water level, deforestation and pollution.

The two leaders felt Bhutan and Afghanistan can share their expertise and experiences in the health services, education and organic farming.

With his Nepalese counterpart, Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley discussed several bilateral issues and areas to broaden cooperation between the two countries.

They also expressed the need to renew the air services agreement and bilateral trade agreement between the two countries.

Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley and President Mohamad Nasheed of the Maldives discussed climate change and agreed that hydropower was a solution to fossil fuel energy.

With President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka, Bhutan’s Prime Minister discussed the importance of increasing cultural tourism between the two countries considering the shared Buddhist values and cultures.

With the summit now over, the Foreign Ministers of SAARC members are expected to meet again later in December in Thimphu to celebrate the silver jubilee of SAARC.

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