Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid out details of projects in several areas from LPG to space technology to mark efforts to take India-Bhutan relationship beyond hydro-power on the first day of his two-day visit to the Himalayan Kingdom.
Increasing clean fuel supply, launch of Rupay card, foreign currency swap arrangement and enhancing cooperation in science and education sectors were among the major assistance announced by the Prime Minister– aimed to widen the ambit of relationship with Bhutan–at a joint press meet held with his counterpart Lotay Tshering on Saturday afternoon in Thimpu. The two leaders had earlier held bilateral discussions.
Prime Minister, however, underlined the importance of continued cooperation in the hydro-power sector with the joint inauguration of Rs 5,012-crore Mangdechhu hydro-power project.
“Both countries have over the years converted Bhutan’s rivers’ waters into not just electricity but also prosperity,” he said adding that “joint hydro-power generation was going past 200 MW mark in Bhutan.”
The Prime Minister then moved on to other areas of cooperation aimed for Bhutan’s development. India was going to increase the supply of LPG from 700 Metric Tonnes (MT) to 1000 Metric Tonnes (MT) per month in order to meet the requirement of the ordinary citizens of the country, he announced.
He also referred to the launch of RuPay card as a step towards digitising transactions and deepening business and financial cooperation between the two countries.
In more financial cooperation, India, Prime Minister said, was positive about increasing the currency swap limit for Bhutan under the SAARC Currency Swap Framework. “An additional $100 M will be made available to meet Bhutan’s foreign currency requirement in the interim,” he said.
India’s assistance to Bhutan through the five-year-plans will continue, PM said adding that the “focus and priorities” for the five-year- plans will be determined by Bhutanese people’s “desire”.
Prime Minister also inaugurated Rs 7-crore ground station built by India’s space agency to allow Bhutan to use South Asian Satellite for communication, public broadcast and disaster management.
Prime Minister said that India was committed to Bhutan’s growth in space technology and will also make available extra bandwidth and transponder for its use. “Both the countries will cooperate for creating small satellite and use of space technology,” he announced.
India also announced linking Bhutanese students and researchers to Indian universities. Royal University of Bhutan and IITs will cooperate under this programme and five Post Graduate scholarships for Bhutanese students will be provided by the Nalanda University in Bihar for five-years.
Prime Minister also praised generation of Bhutanese Kings for wisely guiding the bilateral relations between the two countries over the years and for demonstrating to the world that real progress was measured in “happiness and not by cold “statistics”.