Vivian Balakrishnan discusses expanding bilateral ties with Bhutan on introductory visit

Dr Balakrishnan (second from right) and his wife (second from left)  with Bhutan's royal couple.
Dr Balakrishnan (second from right) and his wife (second from left) with Bhutan's royal couple.PHOTO: DR VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN / FACEBOOK

(THIMPU) - Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan reaffirmed the warm bilateral relations between Singapore and Bhutan, and discussed ways to expand bilateral cooperation during his introductory visit to the kingdom.

In a Facebook posting, he wrote that he was honoured to meet His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Her Majesty Queen Jetsun Pema at the Tashichhodzong.

"His Majesty knows us very well and follows Singapore's development closely," he wrote. "We had a candid discussion on developments in Bhutan," Dr Balakrishnan wrote. "His Majesty shared his vision of restructuring."

The Minister and Bhutan Minister for Labour and Human Resources Ngeema Sangay Tshempo jointly witnessed the signing of an MOU on collaboration in the field of technical and vocational education and training between Singapore's Institute of Technical Education Services and the Bhutanese Ministry of Labour and Human Resources.

Dr Balakrishnan also called on Prime Minister Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay and met Foreign Minister Damcho Dorji, Minister for Labour and Human Resources Lyonpo Ngeema Sangay Tshempo, Minister for Economic Affairs Lyonpo Leki Dorji and Minister for Home and Cultural Affairs Lyonpo Dawa Gyaltshen.

The Minister presented books to Minister for Home and Cultural Affairs Dawa Gyaltshen as part of a handover ceremony for a donation of books from the Singapore National Library Board to the Bhutan National Library and Archives, as part of the National Library Board's contribution of 1,000 books to Bhutan.

"I hope that these books will help to promote reading amongst the Bhutanese children and youth," he said in a separate Facebook posting, after the presentation. "Glad to see a collection of books on Singapore in the Bhutan National Library."

Dr Balakrishnan also attended a reception hosted by Minister for Foreign Affairs Damcho Dorji. During the meetings, Minister Balakrishnan announced a training programme by Singapore Health Services (SingHealth) for Bhutanese healthcare professionals in Emergency Medicine and a clinical attachment for Ear, Nose and Throat doctors.

His meeting with the King and Queen took place at the Tashichhodzong, a Buddhist monastery and fortress on the northern edge of the capital that has traditionally been the seat of the head of Bhutan's civil government.

"His Majesty shared his vision of restructuring Bhutan's economy while preserving the rich culture and identity of the Bhutanese," Dr Balakrishan wrote on Facebook. "Singapore is happy to contribute to His Majesty's vision for Bhutan's development. There is much that both countries can do together. I invited the King and Queen to visit Singapore soon."

Dr Balakrishnan will return to Singapore on Wednesday (May 17).