Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday addressed students and parliamentarians at the Royal University of Bhutan, highlighting how education and democracy aim at setting people free.
“Democracy and education, both aim to set us free, neither can be complete without the other and both help us reach our fullest potential and to be the best we can,” he told the gathered audience. He reiterated India’s stand on cooperating in newer areas of bilateral ties with Bhutan.
While both the countries are dedicated to traditional areas of cooperation like hydropower, New Delhi and Thimphu had agreed to focus on newer fields of bilateral ties like education, health and space, to name a few, on the first day of the Prime Minister’s visit.
Towards this, at least seven of the nine MoUs signed between the two nations were in the field of education. In a first, the documents were exchanged between the respective Prime Ministers of the two nations at the Semtokha Dzong on Saturday, in front of the statue of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, which has been loaned by India to Bhutan.
The Prime Minister also talked about his book, Exam Warriors, at the event, urging students to chase their dreams and realise their calling.
“The world today offers more opportunities than ever before. You have the power and potential to do extraordinary things, which will impact generations to come. Find your real calling and pursue it with full passion,” Modi said.
“Yes, we have challenges. But for every challenge, we have young minds to find innovative solutions to overcome them. Let no limitation constrain you. I want to tell you all – there is no better time to be young than now,” he added.
Modi also highlighted how happiness leads to sustainable development during his address.
“Bhutan’s message to humanity is happiness. Happiness which springs from harmony. The world can do with a lot more happiness. Happiness, which shall prevail over mindless hate. If people are happy, there will be harmony. Where there is harmony, there will be peace. And you need peace that will help society… progress to sustainable development,” he said, outlining how the world has much to learn from Bhutan.
The Prime Minister also outlined the age-old educational linkages shared between the two countries.
“In the 20th century, many Indians came to Bhutan as teachers. Most Bhutanese students of older generations would have had at least one Indian teacher during their education. Some of them were honoured by His Majesty last year and we are grateful for this generous and kind gesture,” he said.
There are currently 3,748 Bhutanese students studying in India.
“As Bhutan soars high in its endeavours, your 1.3 billion Indian friends will not just look on and cheer you with pride and happiness. They will partner with you, share with you and learn from you,” he added.
All 47 MPs from Bhutan’s lower house of the parliament (National Assembly of Bhutan) were invited for the address, along with the 25 MPs in the Bhutanese Parliament’s upper house (National Council of Bhutan).
The Royal University of Bhutan founded on June 2, 2003, by a royal decree, is the national university system of Bhutan. King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is the chancellor of the university.
It is a decentralised university with 10 constituent colleges and two affiliated colleges spread across the kingdom.
Following the address, Modi visited the National Memorial Chorten, where he offered ‘khaddar’ and lit butter lamps.
The Prime Minister had a packed first day in Bhutan on Saturday, having had a string of meetings with dignitaries like the King of the nation at Tashichhodzong and his Bhutanese counterpart, amongst others. PM Modi also met the former King of Bhutan Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
Amongst other things, India has made the commitment to give Rs 5,000 crore to Bhutan as development assistance for its 12th five-year plan, which began earlier this year. The first tranche of funds for the plan has already been released by New Delhi.