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Bhutan’s King weds India-educated Pema

News4u-News Desk- 

Bhutan’s popular King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck tied the nuptial knot with his childhood sweetheart and India-educated commoner Jetsun Pema on Thursday in a traditional Buddhist ceremony at a stunning fortress in this historical city, 71 km from capital Thimphu.

 

Amid chanting of hymns by red-robe Buddhist monks and clanging of drums by Bhutanese, the 31-year-old dashing Wangchuck placed the crown on the head of 21-year-old Pema, whom he met when he was 17, as the Chief Abot (head of the monks) of Bhutan Je Khenpo led the proceedings.

Pema, who wore a yellow jacket and a skirt according to the traditions, was proclaimed the ‘Queen of the Kingdom of Bhutan’ as the King bestowed the crown on her after a series of ceremonies that was attended by 300 guests, including Indian Ambassador to Bhutan Pavan K Varma and West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan, and members of the Royal Family.

Wearing a raven crown, the King stood with a smile on his chuckle as Pema prostrated herself before him thrice according to the traditions and was served with a liquid that according to belief is for longivity of the couple.

Outside the stunning 17th century fortress, located between two rivers Fochu (Father River) and Mochu (Mother River), thousands of Bhutanese, including children and women, thronged the ground near the monastic fortress to catch a glimpse of their King and the Queen.

The people, including nomads and villagers who live in remotest parts of the country, started assembling at the ground as early as 5 AM (local time) braving intense cold conditions, even as majority of the 7 lakh population glued to their television sets to watch the wedding ceremony live.

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India, Bangladesh resolve land boundary issues

News4u-News Desk-India and Bangladesh on Tuesday resolved the outstanding land boundary demarcation issue affecting the two nations for the past 40 years.

 

During his visit, India and Bangladesh put the bilateral ties in a new trajectory through signing of deals in a range of sectors including extradition of sentenced persons, connectivity, power, exchange of enclaves and border management.

Bangladesh and India had signed a 25-year Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace on 19th March 1972.

The two governments, however, declined to renegotiate or renew the treaty when it expired in 1997.

The framework of agreement, the sources said, will provide a structure, and identify priorities of the relationship.

Singh had, in a statement on the eve of his departure for Dhaka, outlined his agenda in Bangladesh- security, boundary issues, water resources, power connectivity, improvement of border infrastructure, trade facilitation and economic cooperationand said efforts would be made to sustain and build upon the “positive momentum”.

During his visit, Singh held talks with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina, called on President Zillur Rahman and held meetings with opposition leaders Begum Khaleda Zia and Jatiya Party chief Hussain Muhammed Ershad, the former military dictator.

Agreements on land boundary, water resources, market access and power purchase are crucial for Bangladesh while transit and security are prime concerns of India.

Bangladesh might purchase another 250 MW power at the international market rate.

A likely MoU on trade liberalisation will allow duty-free entry of several of the 61 Bangladeshi products, most of them garments, to India.

This will be signed under the Trade Agreement between the two countries.

The maiden bilateral visit by Singh and the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 12 years- aims at consolidating the process set in motion during the landmark visit of Hasina to India in January, 2010, to craft a new paradigm relations, said Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai ahead of the visit.

In a statement prior to his departure for Dhaka, the Prime Minister said India’s partnership with Bangladesh was important for the stability and prosperity of northeastern states.

Significantly, Singh will be accompanied by chief ministers of four northeastern states of Assam, Tripura, Meghayala and Mizoram in his trip to Dhaka.

A protocol on Protection of Royal Bengal Tiger in the Sundarbans is also likely to be inked. Besides, the two countries might sign an MoU on Preservation of Biodiversity in the Sundarbans.

An accord on allowing transit to Nepal through Rohanpur (Chapai Nawabganj) in Bangladesh and Singabad in India might also be signed.

There is also the possibility of signing of an agreement on railway connectivity between Akhaura and Agartala, alignment construction of which is nearing completion.

India’s pressing issue of transit is expected to be signed under existing Trade Agreement between the two countries.

Under it, three separate protocols on use of Chittagong and Mongla seaports of Bangladesh and roads and railway are on the cards.

Both the countries would make arrangements for the use of their waterways, roadways and railways for commerce between the two countries for passage of goods between mainland India to its northeastern states through Bangladeshi territory.

In the joint communiqu issued during Hasina’s visit to India on 10th to 13th January last year, it was agreed that Bangladesh will allow India to use Mongla and Chittagong seaports for movement of goods to and from that country through road and rail.

The signing of a deal on land border, keeping in view the spirit of the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement, will include demarcation of 6.5 km un-demarcated border, exchange of 162 enclaves (51 Bangladesh’s and 111 India’s), exchange of adversely possessed lands, and allowing Bangladeshis to travel 24 hours between Dahagram-Angarpota enclaves and Patgram through the “Tin Bigha Corridor”.

As per the 1974 Mujib-Indira agreement, India will retain the southern half of South Berubari Union No 12 and the adjacent enclaves measuring 2.64 square miles approximately, and in exchange Bangladesh will retain Dahagram and Angarpota enclaves.

India will lease in perpetuity to Bangladesh an area of 178 metres x 85 metres “Tin Bigha Corridor” to connect Dahagram with Panbari Mouza (PS Patgram) of Bangladesh.

At present, Bangladeshis in Dahagram and Angarpota enclaves are allowed to mainland Bangladesh from dawn to dusk every alternate hour.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

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Bhutanese King on goodwill visit from tomorrow

News4u-News Desk-

Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk will arrive New Delhi on Wednesday on a nine-day “goodwill” visit during which he will meet Indian leadership and discuss host of important bilateral and regional issues.

“His Majesty is scheduled to meet President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Minister for External Affairs S M Krishna,” a statement from the Bhutan embassy said in New Delhi on Tuesday.

According to some reports, the visit was earlier planned to be a private one with the King going to some specific places of interest but with greater engagement of China in Bhutan, India wants to further strengthen relation with the Himalayan kingdom and officials here ensured some bilateral meetings take place during his stay.

“His majesty is an old friend of India and this visit will further cement Indo-Bhutan friendship,” the embassy said.

The King is also scheduled to deliver a special address at the Golden Jubilee celebration of the National Defence College (NDC) in New Delhi which will be attended by President Pratibha Patil.

He is an alumni of the NDC, having attended the 2005 programme.

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Land of lamas, dragons and GNH - Bhutan to host first literature fest

News4u-News Desk-The hills of Bhutan will soon be alive with literature as renowned authors and poets gather in the tiny kingdom to participate in a literary festival focussing on the magic and mystique of writings off and from the Himalayan regions.

Indian writers like Gulzar, Chetan Bhagat, Bulbul Sharma and Omair Ahmad will be joined by international names like British author Patrick French as well as local writers and poets from Bhutan for the three-day festival “Mountain Echoes” in Thimphu from 17th May.

The fabled kingdom of dragons known recently for its policy of promoting Gross National Happiness (GNH) over the economic Gross Domestic Product (GDP), provides the perfect setting for writers from different tracts of trans- Himalayan belt to sharing their ideas and literary traditions, say organisers.

“This is the first time that Bhutan is hosting a literary festival. It is a collaborative venture between the governments of India and Bhutan and will focus on the wealth of mountain writing from these countries as well as other international writers,” Mita Kapur, who heads Siyahi, one of the organisers told a news agency.

The shortlist of speakers at the festival “Mountain Echoes” includes among others author and Indian ambassador to Bhutan Pavan K Varma, poet Temsula Ao, Namita Gokhale, Omair Ahmed, Bulbul Sharma, Urvashi Butalia and Leila Seth.

While bestseller Chetan Bhagat would converse with Jai Arjun Singh in session “Young Writers, Young readers,” a different session “Scripting Cinema” would have filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani in discussion with Bollywood actor Boman Irani.

Lyricst Gulzar will read out poems from nature in the session “Aur Neeche tha Dariya (And the River below). Although we have not given it a direct focus, yes obliquely the festival which has a separate segment on travel writing will focus on literary tourism which has become a new genre of tourism,” says Kapur.

Around 40 speakers have confirmed participation at the literature festival which organisers say is expecting a lot of enthusiastic participation.

“The land of the lamas provides a fascinating and mystical backdrop to writers and tourists and we plan to make this event an annual affair,” says Kapur.

Conceptualised by current Indian ambassador to Bhutan, Pavan K Varma “Mountain Echoes,” is held under the India Bhutan Foundation.

The foundation was established in August 2003, with the objective to enhance exchange and interaction among the peoples of both countries, through activities in the areas of educational, cultural, scientific and technical fields.

Sessions at the festival include Bhutan through the Ages, Grandmother’s Tales, History and Biographies, Language and Identity, Poetry and Archery, Shared Dreams and Shared Metaphors, Writing about Mountains, Architecture and Heritage, Music, Love, Poetry, These Hills called Home, Beyond the Frame, Of Women, By Women, Travellers and Magicians, Winds of Change, and Languages of Belonging which shares the stories, tales and folk narratives

Land of lamas, dragons and GNH - Bhutan to host first literature fest

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Manmohan, Gilani to meet today in Bhutan

News4u-News Desk-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani will hold a meeting in Thimpu on Thursday during which the Indian side is expected to flag its unhappiness over the lack of “credible” action by Islamabad to punish perpetrators of 26/11 and end cross-border terrorism.

Singh and Gilani had last met for substantive discussions in Sharm-el-Sheikh in July last year. They had two brief encounters earlier in April in Washington where both the Prime Ministers were to attend the Nuclear Security Summit.

Indian government sources on Wednesday said that Singh and Gilani would meet Thursday evening, ending speculation about whether the interaction would take place or not.

During the meeting, Singh is expected to focus on India’s “core” concern of cross-border terrorism and highlight unhappiness that Pakistan has not done enough on this front.

Singh is expected to seek an update on the investigations and trial in the Mumbai attacks case in Pakistan.

He is likely to point out that the threat of terrorism emanating from Pakistan continues to loom and Pakistan had not taken any concrete steps to eradicate this to create conditions for resumption of substantive dialogue between the two countries.

Pakistan has arrested seven of those accused in the Mumbai terror strikes but Indian maintains that it is not enough as the mastermind of the attacks Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed was still free and engaging publicly in vitriolic tirade against India.

Singh had made it clear a few days back that “credible” and “effective” action by Pakistan against all those behind the Mumbai attacks was the “minimum” requirement for resumption of dialogue on all issues.

Singh underlined that several of the “conspirators”, including Hafiz Saeed, were still roaming about freely and rejected Pakistan’s contention that there was not enough evidence to act against him.

He had said that proof about his involvement in 26/11, even that gathered by American agencies, was already in public domain and there was no need to give any more to Pakistan.

India has put the composite dialogue on hold since the Mumbai attacks and refused to resume it till Pakistan punishes all those behind the carnage.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani

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No bilateral meeting between PM and Gilani in Bhutan

News4u-News Desk-No bilateral meeting has been fixed so far between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani in Bhutan during the SAARC Summit, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said on Thursday.

“As of now, no such meeting has been set up between the Prime Minister and Gilani,” she said, adding Singh will be having separate meetings with leaders from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan besides Afghanistan.

Maintaining that the situation was not ripe for resumption of the composite dialogue, stalled in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks, Rao said India wants action against the perpetrators and dismantling of terror infrastructure in Pakistan. “The situation has not really changed in that regard because we need action in terms of movement in the Mumbai trials in Pakistan.

“The levels of infiltration still are cause of concern in the last few months and terror infrastructure and activities of terror groups from territories controlled by Pakistan is a matter of serious concern,” she said

when asked if the situation was ripe for restarting the dialogue process. She also said the Pakistan has not got back to India on the dossiers handed over to them at the Foreign Secretary- level talks here in February containing information against terrorists and terror groups involved in anti-India activities including mastermind of Mumbai attack and Jamaat-ud-dawa chief Hafiz Saeed.

Asked whether India has received any request from Pakistan for the meeting in Thimpu, Rao said “there has been no request from Pakistan as of now.” Asked about the possibility of any interaction between Dr Singh and Gilani, she said “I do not really want to forecast, what is going to happen but let me say, dialogue is always useful.

Dr Singh leaves for Thimpu on 28th April for the two-day SAARC Summit which has climate change as its central theme.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani

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Bhutan will produce hydro power for India

News4u-Business Desk-Guwahati, Bhutan government will produce 10,000 MW of hydro-power for India by 2020 under a joint venture, its Consul General Dasho Tsering Wangda said today.

India will provide Rs 35,000 crore for the venture. “On India’s request we will provide power annually from this project, which will be on a 70 per cent loan and 30 per cent grant,” he told newsmen here.

The loan will be repayable in 12 years, while the entire technical support will be provided by India, Wangda said.

The envoy rejected the oft-repeated charge that release of excess water from dams in Bhutan constructed on rivers flowing thorugh Assam caused flash floods, particularly in lower Assam during the rainy season.

“This is totally false as our power projects do not displace people.

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India and Bhutan ink about a dozen pacts, MoUs

News4u-News Desk-Nearly half-a-dozen agreements and as many MoUs in fields ranging from hydro power to health to IT to civil aviation were signed between India and Bhutan in the presence of visiting Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and PM Manmohan Singh.

 

 

The fifth King of Bhutan, who is in India on his maiden foreign visit since his coronation in November last year, held one-on-one and delegation level talks with Singh during which both the leaders discussed wide-ranging issues including that of bilateral and regional interests.

Briefing reporters about the meeting, Foreign Affairs Ministry’s official spokesman Vishnu Prakash said several agreements and MoUs were signed, including pacts on initiating DPRs for the Amochu (620 MW), Kuri-Gongri (1800 MW), Chamkarchu-I (670 MW) and Kholongchhu (486 MW)projects.

Asserting that both countries attach “highest importance” to development of hydro projects in Bhutan, Prakash said it has been decided that New Delhi will help Thimphu to achieve a target of 10,000 MW of power by 2020.

He said, at present the total installed capacity of Bhutan to generate power is at 1500 MW, out of which 400 MW is used domestically and rest surplus is sold to India.

During the meeting, the Prime Minister described the Kings’s visit as “historic” and termed Bhutan as “India’s closest friend and neighbour” while the King assured Singh that his country was “mindful of India’s interest”, the spokesman said, adding there are no “diversions or outstanding issues” between the two countries.

Singh also assured the Bhutan King that India will not leave any stone unturned to make next year’s SAARC Summit, to be held in Bhutan, as “memorable and successful”, Prakash said.

He said the Prime Minister also wished success to the democratic process in Bhutan and stressed on the need for greater Parliamentary exchanges between the two countries.

Giving the details of the MoUs, he said besides an MoU to set up a super-speciality hospital on the lines of the AIIMS in Bhutan with the technical and expert support from India at the cost of Rs 25 crore as grant-in-aid, one in the field of IT at the cost of Rs 205 crore has also been signed.

This is expected to benefit nearly 2,00,000 rural children and will make half of Bhutan’s population e-literate.

In the area of civil aviation, an ‘Air Services Agreement’ pertaining to expansion of international air services and ensuring the safety and security in the services was signed by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and Bhutanese Minister of Economic Affairs Khandu Wangchuk.

Other MoUs signed between the two countries included one on ‘Drug Demand Reduction and Prevention of Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Substances and Precursor Chemicals and Related Matters’, ‘Consultancy Services for Preparation of National Transmission Grid Master Plan’ and ‘Technical Assistance for the National Environment Commission Secretariat of Bhutan’.

An MoU providing for ‘Cooperation of Search and Rescue Operations’ to promptly exchange information in the field was also signed between the two countries. They also signed a pact in the seed quality testing field.

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Bhutanese King accorded ceremonial reception

News4u-News Desk-Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, who is on a six-day visit to India, was on Tuesday accorded a ceremonial reception at the forecourt of the Rashtrapathi Bhavan.

Speaking on the ocassion the King said that India and Bhutan have traditionally very strong relations.

The King will also meet the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh this afternoon.

Several agreements and MoUs to enhance cooperation in hydropower, civil aviation and health sectors are expected to be signed.

He also held discussions with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna on issues of mutual interest.

Speaking on the ocassion the King said that India and Bhutan have traditionally very strong relations.

Later, the visiting dignitary went to Rajghat to pay his tributes to the father of nation, Mahatma Gandhi.

Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck

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Death toll reaches 12 ; Bhutan Quake

News4u-News Desk- Adil-The death toll in the 6.3-magnitude quake that jolted Bhutan has risen to 12 including three Indians, even as rescue teams on Tuesday fanned out across the affected areas to look for trapped survivors and assess damage.
The tremor with its epicentre located just inside Bhutan’s border with India, 180 kilometres east of Thimphu, was felt around 2:55 pm on Monday and triggered landslides, damaged buildings including Buddhist monasteries and also blocked roads.
Three Indian labourers were killed when they were hit by falling boulders in the eastern district of Samdrup Jongkhar, state-run Bhutan Broadcasting Service reported.
They were working on the Samdrupjongkhar Trashigang road widening work when the killer quake jolted the area, it said.
Many others, including women and children, were also injured.
Meanwhile, Kuensel newspaper reported that seven more tremors were felt in Trashigang, with the first few tremors occurring every half an hour.
“Five people have died in Mongar. Three women were among four labourers who died in Samdrup Jongkhar, while three were killed in Trashigang,” Kuensel reported.
Officials said that rescue teams were working overtime to assess the damage and look for people trapped or injured.
Some of the monasteries were damaged and monks and other people fled the worship places out of fear, they said.
The eastern Himalayan area is prone to earthquakes and a total of 30 earthquakes have been recorded in Bhutan between the years 1937 and 1998.

News4u-News Desk- Adil-The death toll in the 6.3-magnitude quake that jolted Bhutan has risen to 12 including three Indians, even as rescue teams on Tuesday fanned out across the affected areas to look for trapped survivors and assess damage.

The tremor with its epicentre located just inside Bhutan’s border with India, 180 kilometres east of Thimphu, was felt around 2:55 pm on Monday and triggered landslides, damaged buildings including Buddhist monasteries and also blocked roads.

Three Indian labourers were killed when they were hit by falling boulders in the eastern district of Samdrup Jongkhar, state-run Bhutan Broadcasting Service reported.

They were working on the Samdrupjongkhar Trashigang road widening work when the killer quake jolted the area, it said.

Many others, including women and children, were also injured.

Meanwhile, Kuensel newspaper reported that seven more tremors were felt in Trashigang, with the first few tremors occurring every half an hour.

“Five people have died in Mongar. Three women were among four labourers who died in Samdrup Jongkhar, while three were killed in Trashigang,” Kuensel reported.

Officials said that rescue teams were working overtime to assess the damage and look for people trapped or injured.

Some of the monasteries were damaged and monks and other people fled the worship places out of fear, they said.

The eastern Himalayan area is prone to earthquakes and a total of 30 earthquakes have been recorded in Bhutan between the years 1937 and 1998.


Bhutan Map

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