Your Excellency Lyonchhen Dr. Lotay Tshering, all distinguished guests from Bhutan and India,
Like all Indians, I also have a special love and relationship for Bhutan, and whenever I meet you, there is a feeling of a special belonging!
The unique relations between India and Bhutan and our special friendship are not only invaluable to both nations, but also an unmatched example for the world.
My visit to Bhutan last year is full of many memories. In a way, it was a very memorable journey in itself due to new events, new excitement and new enthusiasm every minute. We took important initiatives to include new areas such as digital, space and emerging technologies in our cooperation.
In the 21st century, these will be new sources of connectivity between the two countries, and especially for our younger generations. During my visit to Bhutan, we started the first phase of the RuPay Card project between the two countries.
This facilitated payment by Indian nationals to Bhutan from the cards issued by Indian banks. I am happy to know that there have been 11,000 successful RuPay transactions in Bhutan so far. This figure would have been much higher had there been no Covid-19 pandemic.
Today we are launching the second phase of this ambitious project. And with this we welcome Bhutan as a full partner in the RuPay network. I commend all the Bhutanese and Indian officials who have worked hard for this achievement.
From today onwards, cardholders of RuPay cards issued by the Bhutan National Bank will be able to use over one lakh ATMs and over 20 lakh Points of Sale terminals in India. I am confident that Bhutanese travelers will find it very convenient in education, health, pilgrimage or tourism in India.
It will also help in increasing digital transactions in Bhutan. The increase in digital transactions in India in the last few years has transformed the lives of millions of people.
Space sector is another very important area for strengthening connectivity between us. India has always used space technology to meet the purpose of development. India and Bhutan share this objective.
Last year, I inaugurated the Ground Earth Station for the use of the South Asia Satellite in Bhutan. I am happy that with the help of this station, Bhutan is able to make more effective use of South Asia Satellite for broadcasting and disaster management.
Yesterday, we signed a framework document aimed at enhancing cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space. This will pave the way for cooperation between various institutions of the two countries.
India has recently opened up its space sector to private enterprise; it is a huge reform. This will promote capacity, innovation and skills.
I am particularly happy that work is progressing at a fast pace at ISRO to send the Bhutan satellite to space.
For this, four promising young space engineers from Bhutan will visit ISRO in December. I also extend many greetings to the four youngsters. I know that his Majesty the King of Bhutan has a deep desire to use space technology in the development of his country and he encourages it also and he has a vision of his own.
India will always be ready to share its experience and its facilities to realize his vision. Similarly, we also support the objective of building an ICT-enabled knowledge-based society in Bhutan. I heartily welcome the agreement with BSNL to provide the third international internet gateway to Bhutan.
It would have been good if we could meet personally and celebrate this occasion. But it is not possible due to corona.
But, on the other hand, in a way, it is also appropriate that we are celebrating these initiatives in the field of technology with the help of technology!
I acknowledge the patience and discipline shown by the people and government of Bhutan in dealing with the crisis of COVID. I, on behalf of the 130 crore people of India, wish you all good health and success.
I want to assure you that in this difficult time, we stand with Bhutan, and your needs will always be the highest priority for us.
Once again, thank you all very much! Wishing the Royal Family the best health