Thimphu: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bhutanese counterpart Lotay Tshering held wide ranging talks on Saturday during which they discussed steps to further expand the bilateral partnership across several sectors as the two countries inked 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.
Modi, who is here on his second visit to Bhutan and the first since his re-election in May this year, inaugurated 740 MW Mangdechhu hydroelectric power plant and also launched stamps to commemorate five decades of India-Bhutan Hydropower cooperation.
"I am very happy to come to Bhutan at the beginning of my second term," Modi said in a joint press statement after delegation-level talks with his Bhutanese counterpart at the historic Simtokha Dzong.
The two countries signed 10 Memorandum of Understandings in the field of space research, aviation, IT, power and education.
"The relations between India and Bhutan are based on the common interests of progress, prosperity and security of the people of both countries," Modi said as he described Bhutan as "special friend" of India.
"Today we have achieved another historic milestone of this journey with the inauguration of the Mangdechhu project. With the cooperation of both countries, hydro-power generation capacity in Bhutan has crossed 2000 MW. I am confident that we will also take other projects forward very fast," he said.
Modi also launched RuPay Card in Bhutan by making a purchase at Simtokha Dzong, built in 1629 by Shabdrung Namgyal, which 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," Prime Minister Modi said.
On increasing the currency swap limit for Bhutan under the SAARC currency swap framework, Modi said India's approach is "positive". He said an additional USD 100 million will be available to Bhutan under a standby swap arrangement to meet the foreign exchange requirement.
The two leaders also 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.
The two leaders jointly inaugurated the Ground Earth Station and SATCOM network, developed with assistance from ISRO for utilization of South Asia Satellite in Bhutan.
Modi said India is committed to accelerate the development of Bhutan using space technology. India will enhance the communication, public broadcasting and disaster management coverage in Bhutan, he said.
He also announced to increase the supply of LPG from India from 700 to 1000 MT per month to meet the growing needs of the people of Bhutan.
The Prime Minister said India will extend all possible help in realising Tshering's dream of multi-disciplinary super-specialty hospital in Bhutan.
Modi 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.
On his part, Prime Minister 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.
Modi also planted a sapling at Simtokha Dzong.
Earlier, Prime Minister Modi inspected a guard of honour during his ceremonial welcome at Tashichhodzong Palace, where he exchanged views with Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck on taking the "exemplary" India-Bhutan partnership forward.
A traditional Chipdrel procession and welcome ceremony was held for Prime Minister Modi before his audience with the King. The ceremony symbolises the purification of path along which the guests are led.
Prime Minister Modi also received a red-carpet welcome at the Paro airport where he was received by the Bhutanese prime minister.
"I am extremely grateful to @PMBhutan for welcoming me at the airport. His gesture is deeply touching," Modi tweeted.
"A memorable welcome in Bhutan! This is a land blessed with natural beauty and wonderful people. There is immense enthusiasm here and the people of Bhutan want to see the India-Bhutan friendship scale newer heights of success," the prime minister said.
Waving the Indian tricolour and the Bhutanese flags, people lined up along the route from Paro to the capital city Thimphu to welcome Prime Minister Modi, who is in Bhutan on a two-day visit.
Prime Minister Modi will also address young Bhutanese students at the prestigious Royal University of Bhutan on Sunday....