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India's PM Modi receives grand welcome at start of Bhutan visit

Published on Jun 15, 2014 7:19 PM
 
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) gestures as he is met by Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay (right) at Paro Airport on June 15, 2014.  India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi received a grand welcome to Bhutan on Sunday, June 15, 2014, 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, Bhutan (AFP) - India's Prime Minister 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.

The Hindu nationalist Premier was greeted at the airport by his Bhutanese counterpart Tshering Tobgay and a ceremonial guard of honour at the start of a two-day visit to the tiny Buddhist kingdom, a month after his landslide election victory.

Schoolchildren in national dress lined the mountainous road between the airport and the capital Thimphu and waved the two countries' flags to greet Mr Modi.

Bhutan's Mr Tobgay later wrote on Twitter that Mr Modi was led in a traditional procession to an audience with King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. Mr Tobgay earlier told The Hindu newspaper the visit was "proof to the world that two countries despite the differences in size can enjoy a relationship that is problem-free and mutually beneficial". Relations with India remained "the cornerstone of Bhutan's foreign policy", he added.

 
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