China’s new-found interest likely to figure in India’s talks with Bhutan

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SummaryKing Wangchuck to meet top leaders today, is chief guest at R-Day parade

With China expressing interest in having diplomatic ties with Bhutan, New Delhi has scheduled two key meetings with the visiting Bhutanese King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, next week. The King will meet National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon at about 10 am on January 28 and Army Chief Bikram Singh at about 6 pm.

Both the meetings are scheduled to take place at the Taj Palace Hotel, where he is staying along with Queen Jetsun Pema. He will meet Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai on January 29. During Menon’s meeting, top officials from the intelligence agencies could be part of the briefing.

Beijing’s interest in the Himalayan country is a fresh development in the last few months, and this would be a major talking point with the King, who is here for eight days. While New Delhi has not commented on it, South Block has been following the development “with interest”.

In June last year, Prime Minister of China Wen Jiabao met Bhutanese PM Jigme Thinley and had held, what Xinhua had called “a surprise meeting”, on the sidelines of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development at Rio de Janeiro. Jiabao had expressed desire to establish diplomatic relations between the two neighbours.

The king will be the chief guest at the 64th Republic Day Parade on Saturday. He will meet President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday. PM Manmohan Singh will hold official bilateral talks with him, followed by lunch at his Race Course Road residence Friday. Vice-President Hamid Ansari, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj will call on him Friday.

HC stays govt move to acquire land for Maitreya project

The Allahabad High Court stayed land acquisition proceedings in connection with Maitreya project, proposed to be set up in Kushinagar district, till further orders. It has also issued notice to Maitreya Project International, which intends to set up a tall statue of Gautam Buddha, besides other charitable institutions, including a university, as part of the project. The petitioners, most marginal farmers from Kushinagar, have been against land acquisition for the project.

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