We may be landlocked but we’re not locked in: PM

Prime Minister returns after attending the UN general assembly 

Diplomacy: Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay arrived back in the country yesterday following official visits to Luxembourg and New York, USA.

At the Paro International airport, Lyonchoen spoke about his interactions with other leaders and areas of cooperation and support that Bhutan could or will be receiving.

Referring to his working visit to Luxembourg, Lyonchoen said that while the European country is smaller than Bhutan, it is far ahead economically. He added that the purpose of visiting Luxembourg was to explore avenues for economic development and areas of support.

Lyonchoen said that three proposals were made. One was to obtain support by acquiring financial expertise from the country to study how Bhutan can transform itself into a financial centre for Asia.

He pointed out that Luxembourg has 56 satellites orbiting earth. “We have no satellite projects so we wanted to get their support, and they are ready to render their help,” he said.

As Luxembourg also has a strong scouting programme, Lyonchoen also proposed that the country support Bhutan in improving the scouting programme here. “They’re ready to help us,” he said.

Lyonchoen also said that Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel was positive when asked about supporting Bhutan with financial assistance for the next Plan.

Lyonchoen then travelled to the USA to attend the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit and the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

In his address during the summit, Lyonchhoen called for the UN to be reformed and supported India’s bid for a permanent seat on the organisation’s security council. He also spoke about the similarities in the Sustainable Development Goals and Gross National Happiness.

While in the USA, Lyonchoen attended a reception hosted by US president Barrack Obama, however, nothing official was discussed between the two leaders, he said.

Lyonchoen did meet with the US Assistant Secretary of State, Nisha Biswal whom agreed to expand educational opportunities for Bhutanese. Other issues discussed were the resettlement of the people in the camps, of whom most have been resettled in the USA.

Lyonchoen said that the US side did not bring up establishing diplomatic relations with Bhutan and so the issue was not discussed. Bhutan is one of three countries to not have diplomatic relations with the USA, the other two being Iran and North Korea.

While in the US, Lyonchoen also met with the Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal, Prakash Man Singh, and participated in a forum for landlocked development countries where he called for partnerships to help landlocked countries become “land linked” to global opportunities.

On the recent situation in Nepal, which is currently displaying the disadvantages of being a landlocked country, Lyonchoen said that while geography can’t be changed, ensuring a country is not landlocked economically could be.

Nepal is currently facing a shortage of fuel and other essentials as a result of protests in its southern areas blocking supplies coming in from India.

“Now we’ve China to the north, India to the south, we can’t change that,” he said. “We may be landlocked but we’re not locked in, we’re not economy locked and the way you do that is obviously to ensure your neighbours have full trust and confidence in you,” he added.

“We’ve to ensure that our borders are also secure and that one side of the border does not compromise the interests, not just the security interests but most other interests, especially economic interests, of the other side of the border,” Lyonchoen said. “And if we’re to understand that and work with trust and confidence, along those lines, then we’re no longer locked economically.”

Referring to the northern border with China, Lyonchoen said that as it is located in geographically challenging areas, trade would always be difficult. “But the fact is we’ve tranquillity on that border, and there’s very few people living up there but those that live up there, live in peace and tranquillity” he said, adding that while there is the issue of the border being demarcated, it is being worked on.

“Our border with India is well-defined and our people live in even more, if it is possible, peace and tranquility,” Lyonchoen said. “If it is not happening in other landlocked countries, they’ve got to address that,” he added. “As it is you’re locked by geography, landlocked, you cannot make yourself locked economically.”

Lyonchoen also pointed out that despite Bhutan and Nepal not sharing a common border, the Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister agreed that there is a need to further expand ties and friendship.

The two discussed areas of cooperation in communications, the scout movement, education, tourism, banking and finance. While there, he also granted an audience by Grand Duke Henri.

Lyonchoen also took part in several side events of the summit.

Gyalsten K Dorji

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