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Bhutan natural choice for first foreign visit: Modi

New Delhi: On the eve of his first foreign visit as Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi said on Saturday that Bhutan was a ‘natural choice’ because of the ‘unique and special relationship’ and added that his trip would focus on making development and cooperation between the two countries ‘even more effective’.

In his pre-departure statement, Modi said relations with Bhutan will be a key foreign policy priority for his government. "I am looking forward to my first-ever visit to Bhutan and to nurturing and further strengthening India's special relations with Bhutan," the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said.

Modi’s trip comes at the invitation King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk and Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay. "I travel to Bhutan with immense happiness and a strong desire to further strengthen our already strong bond," Modi stressed.

"Bound by common interests and shared prosperity, India and Bhutan enjoy a unique and special relationship which has been forged by ties of geography, history and culture. Therefore, Bhutan as the destination for my first visit abroad as Prime Minister is a natural choice," the PM said.

The former Gujarat Chief Minister said his visit would provide him the opportunity to hold detailed discussions with the King and the Prime Minister of Bhutan, on the entire gamut of bilateral relations.

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"I will review with the Bhutanese leadership our development cooperation programme to make it even more effective and responsive to the changing aspirations of the people of Bhutan," Modi explained, adding, "Bhutan and India share a very special relationship that has stood the test of time."

Modi also said Bhutan's peaceful and smooth transition to a democratic constitutional monarchy was a success story: "Its orderly conduct of elections is testimony to the consolidation of its democracy, in accordance with the wise vision of their Majesties."

During the visit, Modi will address a joint session of the Parliament of Bhutan and will also inaugurate one of India's assistance projects -- the building of the Supreme Court of Bhutan.

"The government of India has been a privileged and leading partner of Bhutan in its socio-economic development. We rejoice in Bhutan's remarkable economic growth and its progress and prosperity. We are committed to continuing our unstinted support to Bhutan in its development efforts," Modi said in his statement.

Hydropower cooperation with Bhutan ‘is a classic example of win-win cooperation and a model for the entire region’ Modi explained; the prime minister will lay the foundation stone for the 600 MW Kholongchu hydropower project during his visit.

"People-to-people contact is an important aspect of our bilateral relations. I intend to discuss with the Bhutanese leadership how to further strengthen these contacts between our countries, particularly among the youth. In this regard, the role of educational links will be very important," Modi concluded.