On his second visit to Bhutan and first since his re-election in May this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a wide range of discussion over the expansion of bilateral partnership with his Bhutanese counterpart Lotay Tshering Saturday and signed 10 MoUs to infuse new energy in their ties.
“We had a comprehensive meeting, where we deliberated on the relations between India and Bhutan. There is great scope to further improve economic and cultural ties between our nations,” Prime Minister Modi said. Bhutan was the first country Modi visited after assuming charge as prime minister in 2014.
On his part, PM Tshering said India and Bhutan may vary in size but their beliefs, values and motivation are common. “On his (Modi) first visit to Bhutan, I remember him saying that Bhutan and India are close not because we have open borders, but because we have opened our hearts to each other. Your visit this time shows how much you meant it,” he said.
On arrival, Modi received a red-carpet welcome at the Paro airport where he was received by the Bhutanese prime minister. He later inspected a guard of honour during his ceremonial welcome at Tashichhodzong Palace in the capital city Thimphu. Waving the Indian tricolour and the Bhutanese flags, people lined up along the route from Paro to Thimphu to welcome Modi. On his second day, Modi will also address young Bhutanese students at the prestigious Royal University of Bhutan on Sunday.
On his two-day visit to the Buddhist nation, Modi inaugurated Mangdechhu hydroelectric power plant and also launched stamps to commemorate five decades of India-Bhutan Hydropower cooperation on the first day. New Delhi is the largest buyer of Bhutanese hydropower.
The two nations signed 10 Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) in the field of space research, aviation, IT, power and education.
After the delegation-level talks with Tshering at the historic Simtokha Dzong, Modi said in a press statement, “I am very happy to come to Bhutan at the beginning of my second term.”
They jointly inaugurated the Ground Earth Station and SATCOM network, developed with assistance from ISRO for utilization of South Asia Satellite in Bhutan. Committed to facilitate Bhutan’s development through the use of space technology, Modi said India will enhance the communication, public broadcasting and disaster management coverage in Bhutan.
RuPay in Bhutan
Modi also launched RuPay Card in Bhutan by making a purchase at Simtokha Dzong. Built in 1629 by Shabdrung Namgyal, Simtokha Dzong functions as a monastic and administrative centre and is one of the oldest dzongs in Bhutan.
“I am very happy that today we have launched RuPay card in Bhutan. This will further enhance our relationship in digital payments, and trade and tourism. Our shared spiritual heritage and strong people-to-people relationship are key of our relations,” PM Modi said.
On increasing the currency swap limit for Bhutan under the SAARC currency swap framework, Modi said India’s approach is “positive”, adding that an additional USD 100 million will be available to Bhutan under a standby swap arrangement to meet the foreign exchange requirement.
The two leaders unveiled e-plaque of the interconnection between India’s National Knowledge Network and Bhutan’s Druk Research and Education Network.
“It is a privilege for India to be a major partner in the development of Bhutan. India’s cooperation in Bhutan’s five-year plans will continue,” Modi said.
Modi also said the collaboration and relationship between Royal Bhutan University and IITs of India and some other top educational institutions are in line with today’s requirements for education and technology.
“I believe that India and Bhutan will remain a unique model of relations between two countries in the world,” he said.