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India's PM Modi assures Bhutan of support, strengthening of bonds during visit

Published on Jun 16, 2014 12:09 AM
In this handout photograph released by the Royal Office of Media Bhutan, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) shakes hands with Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck in Thimphu on June 15, 2014. India's Narendra Modi received a grand welcome to Bhutan on Sunday on his first foreign trip as prime minister, as he steps up a charm offensive with neighbours to try to check China's regional influence. -- PHOTO: AFP 

THIMPHU (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured Bhutan on Sunday of India's support during his first trip abroad, a move seen as an attempt to assert his country's influence in South Asia, where China is steadily making inroads.

Mr Modi, given a ceremonial welcome in Bhutan's capital Thimphu nestled in mist-covered mountains, opened a Supreme Court building constructed with Indian assistance.

On Monday, he will lay the foundation for a 600MW hydroelectric power station, part of an energy cooperation plan to feed demand in Bhutan, and also India. "PM underlined that he would not only nurture strong bonds but would also strengthen them," a government official said after Mr Modi's talks with Bhutan's King Jigme Kesar Wangchuk and Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay.

His decision to make tiny Bhutan his first destination was the latest in a series of unconventional policy choices by India's new prime minister, who came to power last month on the promise of making his country an economic and military power.

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