Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Historic Visit to Bhutan: Strengthening Bonds and Building Partnerships

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India's Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, arrived at Paro Airport for a two-day State Visit to Bhutan from March 22nd to 23rd, 2024.

This visit marks the Prime Minister's third official trip to Bhutan and was met with a warm reception, reflecting the enduring friendship between Bhutan and India. Notably, this visit holds significance as it is Prime Minister Modi's final official visit before the upcoming elections in India.

Strengthening Relationships Through Trust and Understanding

Prime Minister Modi had an Audience with His Majesty The King at the Tashichho Dzong, where he received a guard of honor and was escorted in a Chipdrel procession.

PM Modi emphasized the unique and special relationship shared by India and Bhutan, characterized by mutual trust and understanding, which has grown stronger over time, nurturing robust bonds between the two countries.

 

PM Modi Conferred Bhutan's Highest Honour, the Order of Druk Gyalpo

During a special ceremony at Tendelthang, His Majesty The King bestowed upon Prime Minister Modi the Order of Druk Gyalpo (Ngadag Pelgi Khorlo), Bhutan’s highest honor. Expressing gratitude for the recognition, PM Modi lauded Bhutan for its impressive progress and underscored the deepening ties between the two neighboring nations. He regarded the prestigious award as a tribute to all 1.4 billion Indians.

Underlining that India and Bhutan’s relations are as ancient as they are innovative and topical, PM Modi said that when he became prime minister of India in 2014, it was natural to come to Bhutan as his first foreign trip.

“And, I remember the day when 10 years ago I came to Druk Yul – that is, the Land of the Thunder Dragon.”

The PM said that the “welcome by Bhutan”, that warmth, made the beginning of his visit as prime minister memorable.

The award was presented to Prime Minister Modi on Bhutan’s 114th National Day on December 17th, 2021, in appreciation of his leadership and personal endeavors to strengthen the exceptional relations between Bhutan and India. The ceremony, attended by His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo, the Royal Family, and thousands of individuals from various sectors, including schoolchildren, featured performances showcasing Bhutan’s performing arts, as well as performances in Hindi and Gujarati dedicated to Prime Minister Modi.

India announced financial assistance for Bhutan's 13th Plan

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announced that the Government of India would provide 100 billion Indian Rupees in assistance for Bhutan's 13th plan. He stressed the importance of leveraging technology for rapid economic growth and well-being as Bhutan embarks on significant digital and technological transformation. PM Modi aligned this vision with His Majesty’s initiative to develop the Gelephu Special Administrative Region, emphasizing its potential to foster partnerships and bring the people of Bhutan and India closer together.

PM Modi pledged India’s support for accelerating partnerships in sectors promoting youth development, education, technology, sports, and creative and cultural industries. He praised Bhutan’s ambition to become a high-income nation by 2034 and commended its economic progress.

PM Modi highlighted India’s socio-economic progress and technological advancements, aiming to become a developed nation by 2047. He underscored the importance of people-to-people connectivity, proposing initiatives to enhance physical connectivity, including rail links and trade infrastructure, to facilitate smooth cross-border movement of goods and services. Initiatives such as the construction of the Gelephu-Kokrajhar and Samtse-Banarhat railway links were mentioned to bolster connectivity between the two nations.

Furthermore, PM Modi proposed partnerships in building integrated checkposts to further strengthen people-to-people connectivity.

Bhutan’s Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP), aimed at boosting its economy with a Nu 15 billion program, will now be included in India’s financial assistance package of INR 100 billion for Bhutan’s 13th Plan.

Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) between Bhutan and India

The two Prime Ministers witnessed the exchange of seven Memoranda of Understanding between their respective foreign secretaries, further strengthening the scope and depth of the cooperation and friendship between Bhutan and India. 

One of the primary agreements was the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation in Sports and Youth, indicating a shared commitment to strengthening ties in these crucial areas between the two countries. While specific details of the MoU were not immediately accessible, there is widespread optimism among sports enthusiasts, particularly the youth, regarding Bhutan's potential to utilize Indian support to emerge as a significant player, not just regionally but globally as well.

Cricket notably stands out as a sport where India holds considerable dominance, and the recent inauguration of Bhutan’s first international standard cricket ground in Gelephu by His Royal Highness Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck highlights the potential for growth in this field. However, the benefits extend beyond cricket, with numerous opportunities for Bhutan to capitalize on collaboration in sports and youth development.

Inauguration of Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck Mother and Child Hospital

During the State Visit, PM Narendra Modi, along with PM Tshering Tobgay, inaugurated the Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck Mother and Child Hospital (GJPMCH) in Thimphu. The fully-funded 150-bedded hospital aims to enhance healthcare infrastructure in Bhutan.

This state-of-the-art facility, dedicated to the esteemed Her Majesty the Queen Jetsun Pema, signifies a leap forward in redefining standards for maternal and child healthcare not only within Bhutan but also across the region, with its pioneering facilities and comprehensive services poised to make a tangible difference in countless lives. The GJPMCH stands as a beacon of the enduring friendship and cooperation between India and Bhutan, embodying a testament to their shared commitment to advancing public health.

With a total budget exceeding Nu 1.3 Billion, generously provided by the Government of India (GoI), the hospital’s inception dates back to 2015. The auspicious groundbreaking ceremony, graced by Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen herself, underscored the monumental significance of this endeavor in bolstering healthcare accessibility and quality throughout Bhutan.

The planning and design for the hospital were carried out in-house by the Health Infrastructure Development Division of the Department of Medical Supplies and Health Infrastructure, Ministry of Health, covering an area of approximately 4.20 acres above the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH).

Equipped with advanced medical equipment for intensive care units and operating theaters, the GJPMCH features departments for obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and neonatology, Intensive Care Units (Paediatrics and Neonates), emergency and trauma centers, operating theaters, specialized services, laboratory units, and a community health unit.

Private Dinner at Lingkana Palace

King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck also hosted a special family dinner for Prime Minister Modi.

At the private dinner hosted at the Lingkana Palace, the entire family of the king including Queen Jetsun Pema and their three children Jigme Namgyel, Jigme Ugyen, and Sonam Yangden were present. The Royal family bonded with PM Modi as a family member, highlighting the special ties between the two countries.

Pictures from the dinner showed PM Modi interacting with the two young princes while princess Sonam who was born in September last year cradled in Queen Pema’s lap.

Warm Friendships and Bonds Between India and Bhutan

His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, accompanied by Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay, the cabinet, and senior government officials, bid farewell to PM Modi at Paro International Airport on March 23rd, 2024. Paro Dzongkhag students also joined in a special gesture to accord a warm send-off to the Prime Minister.

Prior to PM Modi's State Visit to Bhutan, PM Dasho Tshering Tobgay also made an official trip to India from 14th to 18th March 2024 at the request of Prime Minister of India. It was PM Tshering Tobgay's inaugural international visit since assuming office in January 2024. 

His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck officially visited India from 3-10 November 2023.



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