PM greets Tobgay for winning Bhutan election

Indo Asian News Service

New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday greeted PDP president Tshering Tobgay after his party won the Bhutan elections, in which India's decision to cut subsidies figured in a major way.

Manmohan Singh pledged to continue with India's "unflinching support" to the Himalayan nation with which New Delhi enjoys special ties.

"It gives me great pleasure to facilitate your excellency on the success of the People's Democratic Party as well as your own election to the national assembly in the historic second democratic election in Bhutan," Manmohan Singh said.

"I would like to avail of this opportunity to assure you of the steadfast and unflinching support of India and its citizens for the steady steps that Bhutan is taking to further strengthen democratic processes and institutions."

The PDP won 32 of the 47 seats of the national assembly or lower house of Bhutan's parliament. Voting was held Saturday in the picturesque nation of 750,000 people.

India's decision this month to cut subsidies on cooking gas and kerosene to Bhutan was a major election issue, amid charges that New Delhi axed the subsidies to show unhappiness over the Bhutanese prime minister's warming up to China.

Manmohan Singh in his message that he had instructed Indian officials to prepare for discussions on New Delhi's plan assistance for Bhutan. The last aid plan ended in June.

"I also look forward to an early opportunity of welcoming you in India."

The Indian withdrawal of subsidy on kerosene and cooking gas adversely affected energy prices in the country and became a campaign point.

Manmohan Singh said India was a privileged partner of Bhutan and its people.

"Our bilateral ties are anchored in a strong foundation of trust, mutual confidence and understanding. I wish to reiterate India's undiminished commitment to Bhutan in preserving these unique and special traditional ties.

"India is, and will remain, sensitive to Bhutan and its interests," he added.

India and Bhutan have traditionally enjoyed very close ties. They share a 605-km border. India is Bhutan's largest trading partner, accounting for 98 percent of Thimpu's exports and 90 percent of imports.