The Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi paid a State Visit to Bhutan on 17-18 August 2019, at the invitation of Prime Minister of Bhutan Dr. Lotay Tshering. The visit t underscored an abiding and enduring bilateral relationship . Both emphasized on need to further deepen trust and to connect the two countries even closer together.
On arrival at Paro Airport, Prime Minister Shri Modi was welcomed by Prime Minister Dr.Tshering, members of the Cabinet and senior government officials with a ceremonial guard of honour. Prime Minister Shri Modi had an audience with His Majesty JigmeKhesarNamgyelWangchuck, The King of Bhutan. Their Majesties The King and The Queen hosted a luncheon in honour of the visiting dignitary. Prime Minister Shri Modi invited Their Majesties The King and The Queen to visit India at an early date, as per their convenience.
Prime Minister Shri Modi and Prime Minister Dr.Tshering met in restricted format as well as held delegation level talks. Prime Minister Dr.Tshering also hosted a State Banquet in honour of Prime Minister Shri Modi.
Leader of the Opposition of the National Assembly of Bhutan, Dr.PemaGyamtsho, called on Prime Minister Shri Modi.
Prime Minister Shri Modi thanked Prime Minister Dr.Tshering for having graced his swearing-in ceremony on 30 May 2019 and recalled their discussions on that occasion. Both leaders agreed that the tradition of regular high-level contacts between Bhutan and India is an important hallmark of the special and privileged relationship.
During the talks, both Prime Ministers comprehensively reviewed all aspects of the bilateral relationship, as well as other important regional and international developments. Both leaders expressed satisfaction at the excellent state of bilateral ties, which is based on mutual trust and respect, and underpinned by shared historical, cultural, economic, developmental and people-to-people linkages. In this context, both sides appreciated the role played by the visionary Monarchs of Bhutan and the successive leadership of India and Bhutan in nurturing the relationship as an outstanding example of friendship and co-operation between close neighbours.
Both sides reaffirmed their shared security interests and reiterated their commitment to maintain close co-ordination on matters affecting each other’s security and national interests.
Prime Minister Shri Modi reiterated Government of India’s commitment to advancing the economic and infrastructural development of Bhutan, as per the priorities and wishes of the Government and the people of the Kingdom of Bhutan. Prime Minister Shri Modi congratulated the Government and the people of Bhutan for the Kingdom’s imminent graduation to the category of a Middle-Income country. He complimented the people of Bhutan for this achievement while simultaneously preserving their rich cultural heritage and precious environment, in line with Bhutan’s unique development philosophy of ‘Gross National Happiness’.
Prime Minister Dr.Tshering warmly recalled his visit to India in December 2018, his first visit abroad after assuming office in November 2018. He thanked the Government of India for its ongoing support to the 12th Five Year Plan of Bhutan, and also conveyed appreciation for India’s contribution to Bhutan’s development in the past decades.
Both sides emphasized 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 appreciated the timely completion of this project, and congratulated the Project Authority and Management for their dedication and competence. Both sides 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 their 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 sides also reviewed the ongoing bilateral discussions on the Sankosh Reservoir hydroelectric project.
Given the huge benefits that would accrue to both countries from this project, they agreed to finalize the implementation modalities for the Project at the earliest to enable commencement of construction. The two Prime Ministers jointly released Bhutanese stamps commemorating five decades of mutually beneficial Indo-Bhutan cooperation in hydro-power sector.
The two Prime Ministers formally launched the facility of use of Indian-issued RuPay cards in Bhutan, which would greatly facilitate Indian travellers to Bhutan by reducing the need to carry cash, while at the same time boosting the Bhutanese economy and further integrating the economies of both countries. Both sides resolved to expeditiously work on the next phase of the project, i.e. issuance of RuPay cards by Bhutanese banks, which would benefit Bhutanese travellers to India and thus allow full inter-operability of RuPay cards in both countries. Along with the launch of RuPay, a feasibility study for use of India’s Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) app in Bhutan was also agreed, to promote cashless payments between the two countries.
The two Prime Ministers inaugurated the Ground Earth Station of the South Asian Satellite in Thimphu, which was constructed with the support of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). Prime Minister Dr.Tshering appreciated the vision of Prime Minister Shri Modi in launching the South Asia Satellite (SAS) in 2017, as a gift to the countries in the South Asia region, which has enabled Bhutan to improve the reach and cost-effectiveness of Bhutan Broadcasting Service, while also enhancing the disaster management capacities within the Kingdom.
Recognizing the positive impact that the SAS would have on the socio-economic development of Bhutan, Prime Minister Shri Modi offered increased bandwidth on an additional transponder as per Bhutan’s requirements, as a gift to the people of Bhutan. Prime Minister Dr.Tshering welcomed the offer as a major milestone in taking forward His Majesty The King’s vision in harnessing space resources for the benefit of the country and its people, and in opening a new chapter in bilateral relations between the two countries that extends to the realms of space.
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.
Recognizing that space technology, together with digital and emerging technologies, offer tremendous potential in accelerating the socio-economic development of a nation, both sides agreed on the need to strengthen collaboration in these areas.
The two Prime Ministers also inaugurated the inter-connection between India’s National Knowledge Network and Bhutan’s Research and Education Network. Both sides noted that this link-up would create an information highway, encouraging greater interaction among the universities and students of both sides.
During the visit both countries also signed MoU in the area of IT, Education, Aviation, Hydroelectric Project etc.