A DAY after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met his Bhutan counterpart Dr Lotay Tshering, India and Bhutan reaffirmed their “shared security interests” and reiterated their commitment to maintain “close co-ordination” on matters affecting each other’s “security and national interests”.
This was the key takeaway from Modi’s two-day Bhutan visit, two years after the two-and-half-month long border stand-off at Doklam brought the two countries pitted against China.
“No other two countries in the world understand each other so well or share so much. And no two countries are such natural partners in bringing prosperity to their people,” Modi told students at the Royal University of Bhutan in Thimphu on Sunday.
Both sides emphasised the importance of “hydro-power development” as one of the most important areas of mutually beneficial bilateral co-operation. The two Prime Ministers formally inaugurated the recently completed 720 MW Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Plant.
They noted that with the coming on stream of this project, the jointly created generation capacity in Bhutan has crossed 2000 MW. The two leaders expressed satisfaction on achieving this important milestone, and resolved to continue working together to expedite the completion of other ongoing projects such as Punatsangchhu-1, Punatsangchhu-2 and Kholongchhu.
Both leaders also agreed to collaborate on the joint development of a small satellite for Bhutan. “They directed that a Joint Working Group (JWG) be formed to implement the project and other related activities, including developing a geoportal system for Bhutan for natural resources and disaster management, using remote sensing and geo-spatial data,” the joint statement said.
The two countries agreed to further expand bilateral trade and investment. Modi assured the Bhutan Prime Minister of “positive consideration” of Bhutan’s request for enhancement of the currency swap limit under the SAARC Currency Swap Framework. As an interim measure, Modi offered an additional USD 100 million of currency swap under the Standby Swap Arrangement, the joint statement said.
Noting the commitment of the Bhutan Prime Minister to improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare for Bhutanese citizens, the joint statement said that an expert team from India visited Bhutan recently to offer technical support for planning the new multi-disciplinary super-specialty hospital in that country.
India also announced the increase in scholarships for Bhutanese students for studies at Nalanda University from 2 to 5.
Speaking to students at the university, Modi said, “I want to tell you all — there is no better time to be young than now! The world today offers more opportunities than ever before. You have the power and potential to do extra-ordinary things, which will impact generations to come. Find your real calling and pursue it with full passion.”