John Kerry to have his­toric talks with Bhutanese PM Tsh­er­ing Tob­gay

Bhutan Times - - Editorial -

WASH­ING­TON: Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry will be­come the first ever Amer­i­can cab­i­net level of­fi­cial to meet with top Bhutanese lead­ers when he vis­its In­dia in the com­ing days, a US of­fi­cial said Fri­day.

Kerry will hold talks with Bhutanese Prime Min­is­ter Tsh­er­ing Tob­gay from the iso­lated Hi­malayan king­dom on Sun­day in the north­west­ern In­dian city of Ah­mad­abad on the side­lines of a trade and in­vest­ment con­fer­ence.

While the United States does not have an em­bassy in Bhutan, the US am­bas­sador to In­dia is ac­cred­ited to Bhutan as well.

“We cer­tainly en­joy a diplo­matic re­la­tion­ship and one which we seek to strengthen and grow,” a se­nior US State Depart­ment of­fi­cials told re­porters on a con­fer­ence call.

Wash­ing­ton has never had any en­gage­ment with Bhutan “higher than an as­sis­tant sec­re­tary level,” the of­fi­cial said.

“This will cer­tainly be the first cab­i­net level in­ter­ac­tion with the prime min­is­ter or any other se­nior of­fi­cial, in­clud­ing in prior years with the king ... so the sec­re­tary will be the first to have that op­por­tu­nity,” the of­fi­cial said.

Wash­ing­ton and Thimphu have good co­op­er­a­tion, the of­fi­cial said, but Bhutan was look­ing at ways to “deepen our peo­ple-to-peo­ple ties or our ed­u­ca­tional ties.”

The prime min­is­ter is a grad­u­ate of the Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh and “is quite keen to be able to pro­vide ad­di­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties for Bhutanese to be able to study in the United States.”

Another im­por­tant area is re­gional en­ergy co­op­er­a­tion, the of­fi­cial added.

Wedged be­tween China and In­dia, the sparsely-pop­u­lated “Land of the Thun­der Dragon” only got its first tele­vi­sion sets in 1999, at a time when less than a quar­ter of house­holds had elec­tric­ity.

Thanks to a mas­sive in­vest­ment in hy­dropower in the fol­low­ing decade-and-a-half, nearly ev­ery house­hold is now hooked up to the elec­tric­ity grid.

But the rad­i­cal change in life­style has co­in­cided with an equally dra­matic trans­for­ma­tion of the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, with the monar­chy ced­ing ab­so­lute power and al­low­ing demo­cratic elec­tions in 2008.

With its abun­dant wind­ing rivers, Bhutan has now set its sights on be­com­ing an en­ergy pow­er­house, with most of its elec­tric power al­ready sold to en­ergy-hun­gry In­dia.

Three hy­dropower projects have been built in In­dia-Bhutan joint ven­tures and another three are un­der con­struc­tion, with plans for more.

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