SPEECH BY THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA, SMT. PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL AT THE BANQUET IN HONOUR OF THE KING OF BHUTAN, HIS MAJESTY JIGME KHESAR NAMGYEL WANGCHUCK
New Delhi, 24th October 2011
His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck,
the King of Bhutan,
Her Majesty Jetsun Pema Wangchuck,
the Queen of Bhutan,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Your Majesties, I am absolutely delighted to welcome both of you to India. At the very outset, let me, on behalf of the Government and the people of India, and on my personal behalf, convey our heartfelt felicitations to you on your wedding held earlier this month. May God shower the choicest blessings on both of you and may you have a happy and prosperous life together.
Let me also say how honoured and privileged we are that your first State visit abroad after your marriage is to India. That you have chosen to bring your Queen for this first trip underlines the unique friendship and fraternity between our countries. The people of India have celebrated with the people of Bhutan on this auspicious and joyous occasion and, now, we celebrate the opportunity of welcoming you to our home.
Your Majesty, your wedding was a landmark in the Bhutanese calendar. The elaborate and deeply spiritual ceremonies on this special occasion, as also during your Majesty's Coronation which I had the honour to witness, reflect the uniqueness of Bhutanese tradition and the profound Buddhist values treasured over centuries of your history. Your Majesty, your emphasis on the importance of family, of community cohesion, and the long established value systems of Bhutanese society are an example to the world.
India and Bhutan enjoy a truly special relationship. The strength of this relationship is that it is based on complete trust, genuine affection, mutual respect, and a deep, abiding commitment to each other's interests. It is for this reason that the canvas of our cooperation has grown so dramatically over the years. When Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the Third King of Bhutan met in 1958 in Paro, they perhaps could not have fully visualized that in the decades thereafter India-Bhutan relations would include such a wide area of mutually beneficial cooperation, that includes hydropower, transport, communications, infrastructure, education, health, ICT industry, medicine and agriculture.
I fondly recall Your Majesty's highly beneficial visit to India in December 2009, which was your first visit abroad after the Coronation in November 2008, and which elevated our relations to a new height. The visits of Your Majesty in October 2010 for the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the National Defence College, of which you are one of the most distinguished alumni, and those of Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year, have taken our relations forward.
In the last few years, Bhutan has witnessed remarkable political transformation. Following Your Majesty's coronation in 2008, the first democratic elections were held and a new Constitution adopted. Parliamentary democracy, with all its attendant institutions, is now firmly in place. We have watched with great admiration and appreciation Your Majesty's foundational contribution in constructively guiding this historic phase of transition. The successfully held Local Government elections in Bhutan this year are a testimony to this. It is transparent for all to see that your magnetic qualities of youth, combined with a statesmanship far beyond your years, have provided Bhutan with visionary leadership, wise counsel, and exemplary guidance.
Let me assure you, Your Majesty that India will walk the extra mile with Bhutan in doing anything we can to make this momentous journey a success. We remain confident that in the future, the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan will emerge as a democratic, progressive and even more prosperous nation, imbued with the seminal notion of Gross National Happiness, from which the world has so much to learn.
Your Majesty, we have also watched with pride your emergence as a 'People's King', travelling to every corner of the country to share with people the trials and joys of life as your society is modernizing. Your helping hand to those in need is deeply appreciated. At the Madhavrao Scindia Memorial Lecture in Delhi two years ago, you had said, "As a King, I always find myself humbled by the duty to serve a country and people. So I strive to do so in a spirit of kindness, integrity and equality. I always seek to discern what is right - what is good for the country and the people - every moment of the day. These values mean everything to me and they will always define me, and my duty to the country". These lines are truly a testimony to your exceptional qualities of leadership, and augur well for the progress of your nation.
May I take this opportunity to once again wish Your Majesties great success and happiness in times to come. During Your Majesty's reign I have no doubt that Bhutan will prosper and achieve its pursuit of happiness to the fullest possible; and that India-Bhutan relations will grow even stronger and fully realize their potential.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, may I request you to join me in raising a toast:-
- to the good health and well being of His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the King of Bhutan, and Her Majesty Jetsun Pema Wangchuck, the Queen of Bhutan;
- to the progress and prosperity of the friendly people of Bhutan; and
- to the everlasting friendship between India and Bhutan.