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Bhutan not to allow its soil for terror acts

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, Dec 20 � Making a strong pitch for combating terrorism, Bhutan Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley today said that his Government would never allow its soil to be used by the North-East insurgent groups.

�We have taken all possible steps to keep our land free from insurgency. In fact, we have made it impossible for them (militants) to enter our territory again,� Thinley said in an interview with this correspondent at the Lokapriya Gopinath Bardoloi International Airport before leaving for Thimphu.

In this context, he also ruled out any presence of North-East ultras imprisoned in Bhutan now. �All the Bodo and ULFA militants captured during �Operation All Clear� have been handed over to the Indian authorities,� Thinley said.

Throwing more light on the initiatives taken by the Bhutan Government to fight terrorism, the Prime Minister revealed that patrolling had been intensified along the border to thwart any attempt of militant groups.

�We are peace-loving people and our people never encourage militancy,� he said, adding that BIMSTEC countries had agreed to fight terrorism unitedly.

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) countries have already taken a resolution to fight terrorism and trans-national organized crime and illicit drug trafficking.

Replying to a question on the prospects of trade between Bhutan and Assam, the Bhutanese Premier sought help from the Assam Government to enhance trade ties. �We are also keen on carrying out joint venture projects by involving the traders of Bhutan and Assam, especially in the field of tourism, food processing and mines. We always welcome investment from our closest neighbour,� he said.

Assam has so far five trade points with Bhutan, but frequent bandhs and law-and-order problems have slowed down the growth of trade.

�Being the closest neighbour, we definitely want more participation from the traders from Assam to take part in our mega projects. To boost trade with Assam, the Bhutan Government has introduced air connectivity with Guwahati which will further benefit the tourism sector,� Thinley observed.

Expressing satisfaction with the growth of bilateral trade between India and Bhutan, Thinley said that India had become a major economic power in Asia and therefore Bhutan would seek India�s help in the field of economy.

�We share a very close and deeper relation with India and during the past several years, the Himalayan country has witnessed substantial investment from the Indian companies in hydro power, solar and energy sectors. The relation between India and Bhutan has been moving along very positive lines ever since it started.� he added.

It may be recalled that India's plan to create a over-$1-bn sovereign-backed fund to boost trade and investment for domestic power utilities in South Asia will largely benefit Bhutan in funding its projects for power distribution to its remote areas.

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