India to help Bhutan in digital payments, space technology
India and Bhutan on Sunday agreed to maintain close coordination on matters linked to each other’s security and national interests, and emphasised on hydro-power as one of the important areas of cooperation as Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrapped up his two-day visit to the Himalayan nation.
Modi was in Thimphu on his second visit to Bhutan as Prime Minister and the first since his re-election in May this year.
Modi and Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering reviewed all aspects of the bilateral ties as well as other regional and international developments, according to a statement issued by the external affairs ministry.
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He reiterated India’s commitment to advancing the economic and infrastructural development of Bhutan, while Teshering thanked New Delhi for its support to the 12th five-year plan.
Inaugurating the recently completed 720 megawatt Mangdechhu Hydroelectric plant, they expressed satisfaction on the achievement and resolved to continue working to expedite completion of other projects such as Punatsangchhu-1, Punatsangchhu-2 and Kholongchhu.
They also launched the facility for use of Indian RuPay cards in Bhutan, which would facilitate Indians’ travel to Bhutan by reducing the need to carry cash, boost the Bhutanese economy and further integrate the two economies, said the statement. They also agreed for a feasibility study on use of India’s Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) app in Bhutan to promote cashless payments between the two countries.
The two Prime Ministers inaugurated in Thimphu the Ground Earth Station of the South Asian Satellite, constructed with the support of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Tshering appreciated Modi’s vision of launching the South Asia Satellite (SAS) in 2017, which has enabled Thimphu to improve the reach and cost-effectiveness of Bhutan Broadcasting Service and also enhanced its disaster management capacities.
Recognising the SAS’s impact on the socio-economic development of Bhutan, Modi offered increased bandwidth on an additional transponder as per Bhutan’s requirements. Tshering welcomed the offer as a major milestone.
They also agreed to collaborate on the joint development of a small satellite for Bhutan and form a joint working group to implement the project and other related activities, including developing a geo-portal system for Bhutan for natural resources and disaster management, using remote sensing and geo-spatial data.
Recognising that the space technology together with digital and emerging technologies offer tremendous potential in accelerating the socio-economic development, both sides agreed to strengthen collaboration in these areas.
“Thank you Bhutan! It was a memorable visit. The affection I have received from the people of this wonderful nation can never be forgotten. There were many programmes which I had the honour of taking part in. The outcomes of the visit will enhance bilateral ties,” Modi said just before his departure from Bhutan.
During his stay in Thimphu, Modi held wide-ranging talks with his Bhutanese counterpart Lotay Tshering on Saturday and they discussed steps to further expand the bilateral partnership across several sectors. The two countries inked 10 MoUs in the fields of space research, aviation, IT, power and education to infuse new energy in their ties.
On Sunday, the Prime Minister addressed students of the prestigious Royal University of Bhutan and asked them to work hard and take the Himalayan nation to great heights.
He said no two countries in the world understood each other so well or share so much as India and Bhutan that are “natural partners” in bringing prosperity to their peoples.
Prime Minister Modi met with Bhutan’s Leader of Opposition Pema Gyamtsho on Sunday and the two leaders discussed the issues of bilateral interests.
He also paid his respects at the National Memorial Chorten, a revered monument honouring the late Third Druk Gyalpo.
The visit concluded with a lunch hosted by the King of Bhutan in honour of prime minister Modi.