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The leader of the Opposition, Dr. Pema Gyamtsho, calls on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in Thimpu, Bhutan on Aug. 18, 2019. (IANS/PIB photo)

THIMPHU  India and Bhutan have agreed to maintain close coordination on matters linked to each other's security and national interests, and emphasized hydro-power development as one of the important areas of mutually beneficial cooperation.

They "reiterated" their commitment during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's two-day visit to Bhutan that ended Aug. 18. 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 bilateral ties as well as other regional and international developments, according to a statement issued by Indian External Affairs Ministry.

Modi 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. He also appreciated India's contribution to Bhutan's development.

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 like Punatsangchhu-1, Punatsangchhu-2 and Kholongchhu.

They also reviewed the bilateral discussions on the Sankosh Reservoir hydroelectric project. Given the huge benefits that would accrue to both countries, they agreed to finalize the project implementation modalities at the earliest to enable start of construction. 

The two prime ministers jointly released Bhutanese stamps, commemorating five decades of mutually beneficial Indo-Bhutan cooperation in hydro-power sector.

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.

The two leaders inaugurated in Thimpu the Ground Earth Station of the South Asian Satellite, constructed with the support of the Indian Space Research Organisation. 

Tshering appreciated Modi's vision of launching the South Asia Satellite in 2017, which has enabled Thimpu to improve the reach and cost-effectiveness of Bhutan Broadcasting Service and also enhanced its disaster management capacities. 

Recognizing 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.

Recognizing that 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. 

They also inaugurated the inter-connection between India's National Knowledge Network and Bhutan's Research and Education Network. This link-up will create an information highway, encouraging greater interaction among universities and students of both sides.

Both countries also exchanged several memorandums of understanding and agreed to further expand bilateral trade and investment.

Bhutan reiterated appreciation for the Rs 4 billion transitional trade support facility offered by India during Tshering's visit in December 2018 to strengthen bilateral trade and economic linkages and thanked India for release of the first tranche of Rs 800 million.

Modi assured Tshering of positive consideration of Bhutan's request for enhancement of the currency swap limit under the SAARC Currency Swap Framework. As an interim measure, Modi offered an additional $100 million of currency swap under the Standby Swap Arrangement.

At the request of Bhutan, Modi announced enhancement of quantum of subsidized liquefied petroleum gas from 700 million tons to 1,000 million tons per month, to enable Bhutan to meet the increasing demand.

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