Occasion: His Majesty’s representative, the gyalpoi zimpon wogma, Tashi Penjore, senior Bhutanese officials and the Indian community in Thimphu celebrated the 66th Republic Day at the Indian embassy in Hejo yesterday.

The celebration started with the unfurling of the India flag, followed by singing the national anthem.

The Indian ambassador to Bhutan, Gautam Bambawale, conveyed his greetings to member of armed forces, paramilitary forces and other security forces present at the gathering.  He said that January 26 held an everlasting place in Indian history.

The ambassador then read out the president of India, Pranab Mukherjee’s address to the nation.  The speech highlighted the election of the current ruling government that gave power to a single party for a stable government after three decades.

The president also called for the empowerment of women and creation of a safer environment for them.  The president said that it was a shame that “Mother India” was not respected by her own children, when it came to the safety of women. “Atrocities of rape, murders, harassment on the roads, kidnapping and dowry deaths, have made women fearful even in their own homes” he said. “Only a nation that respects and empowers its women can become a global power.”

President Mukherjee pointed out the whole world must come together in combating terrorism.  He said that, while remaining non-violent and having good neighbourly intentions, they could not be complacent about adversaries, who would disrupt the prosperity of the country. “We have the strength, confidence and determination to defeat architects of this war against our people,” he said.

President Pranab Mukherjee also lauded the economic progress that the country experienced under the new government. “Achieving five percent plus growth rates each in the first two quarters of 2014-15 is a healthy sign for an early reversion to the high growth trajectory of seven to eight percent,” he said. “Year 2015 is a year of hope.”

President Mukherjee also highlighted the importance of education.  He urged the youth to read more and be creative.  Youth must take advantage of the technologies and master the field of technology and communication. “A vast opportunity awaits within the computer in your palm. The 21st century is within India’s grasp,” he said.

The president reminded the Indian citizens of the contributions of Mahatma Gandhi in shaping the nation.  He said that, while the country was gearing up to celebrate the centenary of Gandhi’s return from South Africa this year, people should never stop to learn from him. “Let us follow his example and become worthy children of a magnificent father.”

In the afternoon, a prominent classical vocalist, Ustad Ghulam Abbas Khan and ensemble enthralled an invited group of guests at a cultural programme hosted by the embassy.  Their Majesties the Queen Mothers, Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck and Sangay Choden Wangchuck, lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay, representatives of the international organisations and senior civil servants attended the programme.

Ustad Ghulam Abbas and his ensemble will perform today from 6pm at the auditorium of the department of youth and sports in Thimphu.  The musical concert was organised by the Nehru Wangchuck Cultural Centre.

Younten Tshedup