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Thimphu, March 1 : Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar met the Bhutanese leadership, including King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, on Sunday on the first stop of his SAARC yatra here as both sides discussed bilateral ties as well as connectivity projects of a sub-regional grouping. (Read: S Jaishankar lands in Thimphu on SAARC mission) Also Read - Nationwide Lockdown on Cards? PM Modi to Hold All-party Meet on December 4 to Discuss COVID Situation
Jaishankar also met Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and the officiating foreign secretary of Bhutan during the talks. Earlier, Jaishankar was received at the airport by Indian envoy Gautam Bambawle and Bhutanese officials. External affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said Jaishankar discussed cooperation between South Asian countries as also ways to strengthen bilateral ties with the Bhutan leadership. Also Read - Regretting Error: Congress MP Anand Sharma Clarifies After Praising PM Modi's Visit to Vaccine Facilities
He said talks on the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) subgrouping also figured in the discussions. Senior officials of the BBIN grouping have met earlier in New Delhi to take forward connectivity projects on power trade and inter-grid connectivity between the four countries. The visit to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) neighbours is part of India’s emphasis on neighbourhood outreach.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made Bhutan the destination of his first foreign tour after taking over in May last year. Modi laid the foundation of the 600-MW Kholongchu hydropower project. President Pranab Mukherjee visited Bhutan last November during which he said that India attached the highest importance to its relations with Thimpu. He called Bhutan “a close friend and neighbour”.
Mukherjee’s visit was the first bilateral trip by an Indian president to Bhutan in 26 years. Jaishankar, who took over on January 28, travels to Bangladesh on March 2, Pakistan on March 3 and Afghanistan on the following day.
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