The first Bhutan-India development talks for the 12th Plan yesterday ended with finalising the government of India’s commitment of Nu 49B in assistance (Nu 45B for development assistance and Nu 4B for trade support facility).

Foreign Secretary, Sonam Tshong, who led the Bhutanese delegation said it was a bureaucratic level discussion to see how best the two sides implement and formalise the understanding set at the highest levels.

“It was an opportunity to reiterate our appreciation to GoI since 1961 till date. It is because of their support that Bhutan is now graduating from LDC,” he said.

The secretary of external affairs ministry of India and the leader of Indian delegation, A. Gitesh Sarma also expressed his appreciation for achieving the desired outcome of 11th Plan. “Because of our friendly relations and unique ties, there were hardly any issues,” he said.

In the 11th Plan, GOI has disbursed Nu 44.87B of the committed 45B, making an overall achievement of 99.7 percent. This is excluding the Nu 5B fund for the economic stimulus plan, which has also been fully released.

In the current Plan, the two sides agreed to allocate the same proportion of fund as in the last Plan, Nu 8.5B each for program grant and small development project (SDP) and Nu 28B for project-tied assistance (PTA).

On the program grant, the GoI agreed to release a fund of Nu 425M every quarter. For the first quarter of the 12th Plan, GoI has already released Nu 300M. The remaining Nu 125M for the first quarter and Nu 425M for the second quarter would be released soon.

About Nu 1.38B from the PTA has already been released for the 12th Plan as bridge financing to continue implementing the on-going projects. In addition to 20 recurring projects, the GoI has endorsed 31 new projects, taking the total PTA projects to 51 in the 12th Plan.

The trade support facility of Nu 4B would be used to develop trade infrastructure, automating and strengthening trade facilities, and support private sector to promote export and establish export-financing facility. To strengthen economic linkages and bilateral trade between the two countries, the Indian side agreed to process the first tranche of Nu 8M.

Sonam Tshong said that Bhutan would also be submitting a revised proposal to construct a multi-specialty hospital. Based on the proposal, India would be sending a team of experts for technical discussion. The Bhutanese side clarified that the proposed National Oncology Center was part of the multi-specialty hospital.

The foreign secretary also said that the Bhutanese side has requested the GoI’s assistance in the field of space technology and to look into the possibility of facilitating a third internet gateway from North East India to Eastern Bhutan.

With regard to hydropower, the foreign secretary said that the Indian side was looking forward to reaching an early agreement on Sunkosh and inauguration of the Mangdechhu. The two sides also discussed on taking forward the Kholongchhu project which has been halted because of the issues with the Indian guideline on cross border electricity trading. The guideline was revised last year upon Bhutan’s request.

The Indian foreign secretary said that India’s own economy is experiencing a rapid growth and the energy requirement is huge. “Cooperation in the field of hydropower is a win-win situation,” he said adding that India will support all the projects in Bhutan’s interest.

While the two countries might have their respective economic agenda, he said that the two sides need to make adjustments to enhance trade. Access to the large Indian market, he added is for Bhutan to capitalize on.

    Tshering Dorji