Notwithstanding a significant deterioration in the security situation, impinging directly on us with the attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul in July 2008, we remained at the forefront of international efforts to assist Afghanistan in building a stable democratic and pluralistic society. The Zaranz-Delaram road giving Afghanistan access to the sea was formally inaugurated by EAM Shri Pranab Mukherjee and President Karzai on 22nd January, 2009. The implementation of the scheme of ICCR Scholarships and ITEC training programmes for Afghan nationals and the execution of community based, small development projects in the fields of agriculture, rural development, sanitation, vocational training, etc. is progressing satisfactorily. India continued to contribute for the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund and pledged a sum of US $ 1 million to the UNDP election fund. India has also pledged an additional US $ 450 million (over the US$ 750 million earlier committed) to effectively meet the requirements of our ongoing and future projects. President Karzai visited India in August 2008 and again in January, 2009.
India continued to constructively engage with Bangladesh on a broad spectrum of bilateral issues during the year. EAM Shri Pranab Mukherjee visited Bangladesh in February 2009, after the Awami League led Grand Alliance won an overwhelming majority in the general elections of December 2008 and formed the government under the premiership of Sheikh Hasina. The other high level visits included visits of Bangladesh Army Chief, Gen. Moeen from 24 February - 1 March 2008, MoS for Commerce and Power Jairam Ramesh to Dhaka in October 2008 including that of Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Deepak Kapoor.
India took several initiatives, many unilaterally, to bring the two countries closer. They included restarting of the passenger train service 'Maitree' Express between Kolkata and Dhaka after 43 years. India gave substantial assistance to Bangladesh to overcome damages caused by natural disasters like cyclone. India started providing duty free access to exports from LDCs in the SAARC including Bangladesh from 1 January 2008 (except some items on India's sensitive list). India has undertaken a project to construct Kalabhaban for the Department of Theatre and Music, University of Dhaka. As a move to check the activities of Indian Insurgent Groups (IIGs) on Bangladeshi soil, the two sides revived the Joint Working Group.
India and Bhutan continued to share uniquely warm and cordial relations, which were further strengthened during the year through regular high level interactions. The year also witnessed the coronation of the 5th King of Bhutan. PM Dr. Manmohan Singh visited Bhutan from 16-17 May, 2008 during which he addressed the first session of the democratically elected Parliament. During the visit, PM announced that India will double the target of hydropower development in Bhutan to 10,000 MW for export to India by 2020; Government of India's assistance for construction of the first rail link between India and Bhutan, and establishment of the prestigious Nehru-Wangchuck scholarships for Bhutanese students.
Prime Minister of Bhutan, Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley, paid a state visit to India from 14-17 July, 2008 and again visited India from 12-14 November, 2008 to participate in the 2nd BIMSTEC Summit in New Delhi. President of India Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil accompanied by the then EAM Shri Pranab Mukherjee paid a state visit to Bhutan from 5-8 November, 2008 as Chief Guest at the formal coronation of His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the King of Bhutan.
Bhutan celebrated 2008 as the Golden Jubilee Year of the visit of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to Bhutan in 1958. A Parliamentary delegation from Bhutan visited India during February 2009 and had interaction with their counterparts in India.
India-Bhutan bilateral relations are characterized by close consultations, maturity, complete trust and mutual understanding and are an example of good neighbourly relations. This special relationship is further sustained by the tradition of regular visits and exchange of views at the highest levels. The Government of India has committed to extend full support and cooperation to the Royal Government of Bhutan for consolidation of democracy following the installation of the first democratically elected Parliament and Government in Bhutan in May 2008. India has been the largest trade and development partner of Bhutan, Ever since Bhutan initiated planned development efforts in the early 1960s India has been extending financial assistance to Bhutan's Five Year Plans (FYP). Recently, Government of India has committed to develop 10,000 MW of hydropower in Bhutan for export to India by 2020.
This has been an important year for India-China relations. Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh paid an official visit to the People's Republic of China from 13-15 January 2008. The leaders of India and China resolved to develop the Strategic & Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity between the two countries. They also reiterated their firm commitment to resolving all outstanding differences through peaceful negotiations, while ensuring that such differences are not allowed to affect the positive development of bilateral relations. The two Prime Ministers signed "A Shared vision for the 21st Century" which reflects the aspirations of the two countries to cooperate with each other on areas of mutual interest on regional and multilateral affairs.
The Foreign Ministers of India and China also exchanged visits in June 2008 and September 2008 respectively. The new Consulates General in Guangzhou and in Kolkata were formally inaugurated during these visits. Bilateral trade in the calendar year 2008 reached US$ 51.8 billion, which is close to the target of US$ 60 billion by 2010 that has been set by the two Prime Ministers. Cooperation and exchanges in the area of defence relations also continued with the holding of the 2nd Joint Military Exercises and the 2nd Annual Defence Dialogue in India in December 2008. The Special Representatives of the two countries met in September 2008 for the 12th round of discussions on the India-China Boundary issue. India provided humanitarian relief assistance worth US$ 5 million to China in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck Sichuan province in May 2008. The two countries have also consulted with each other on important global issues including the international financial crisis and climate change.
The momentum in India-Iran bilateral relations was maintained in 2008-09 through regular exchanges of delegations in different fields as also by high level visits. The impetus provided by high level discussions have contributed to enhanced bilateral cooperation in energy, trade & commerce, investment, culture and transit related issues as well as cooperation in regional and international issues of mutual interest. The President of Iran Dr. Mahomud Ahmadinejad paid a visit to New Delhi on 29 April 2008. EAM Shri Pranab Mukherjee visited Tehran from 28-30 July 2008 to attend the 15th NAM Ministerial Conference and thereafter for the India-Iran XVth Joint Commission meeting from 31st October - 2 November. 2008. The VIth Annual Foreign Office Consulations at the level of Foreign Secretary were held in New Delhi from 17-18 December 2008.
Source: National Portal Content Management Team Reviewed on: 19-11-2010