PM Modi to visit Bhutan on August 17

Lyonchhen Lotay Tshering confirmed during the Meet the Press Session on Friday that Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi will be visiting Bhutan on 17th August 2019 and will be leaving on 18th August the next day.

Lyonchhen said that the details of PM’s visits are being worked up on daily and there are a few changes here and there but activities will be confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

He said, “We are working on it and once it is finalized we will share it with the media and it is not for us to declare as we have to work together.”

“As of now we were informed that the PM will have an interaction with a youth group and there are few visits to religious sites but it is not confirmed.”

The Indian Prime Minister during his visit is expected to meet His Majesty The King, His Majesty The Fourth King and the Prime Minister Lyonchhen (Dr) Lotay Tshering, among others.

The visit will see the Indian PM inaugurating Bhutan’s ground station located in BBS for the SAARC satellite.

Another inauguration would also be the recently completed 720 MW Mangdechu project, though it is not clear whether it will be done in Thimphu or Trongsa depending on the weather.

PM Modi is also expected to launch the inauguration of the RuPay card for Indian visitors coming to Bhutan.

The benefit for Indian visitors is that they can use the card to withdraw local money or make credit card like payments.

The benefit for Bhutan will be that currently Indian visitors and tourists end up exchanging their Rupees at the border for Ngultrum and so now the Rupees can directly enter Bhutan thus enhancing Bhutan’s rupee reserves.

The RMA also proposes to double the current currency swap arrangement with the Reserve Bank of India. Currently Bhutan can withdraw up to USD 100 mn from the RBI for six months with a fixed interest rate of 6.5 percent.

The agenda of discussions between the two sides are not fixed yet, but some expected topics are hydropower and specifically the 2,560 MW Sunkosh project. While India has given assurances the issue now boils down to an implementation modality.

The project was supposed to be signed in 2018 as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations but it could not happen.

The Indian side wants to implement the Sunkosh project on a Turnkey model with full management control, unlike the current system of shared management control.

Bhutan has declined to accept such a model and has instead proposed that the current arrangement of the Inter-Governmental implementation mode be kept with some reforms.

Discussions are also expected to be held around bilateral ties and other areas of cooperation.

PM Modi was expected to make his visit to Bhutan in 2018 as part of the golden jubilee celebrations but the delay in the Mangdechu project, which he was supposed to inaugurate, and elections in Bhutan and then in India led to a delay.

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