Anyone visiting Bhutan is struck as much by its natural beauty as by the warmth, compassion and simplicity of its people. Yesterday, I was at Semtokha Dzong, the fore-most example of the richness of Bhutan’s past and the greatness of its spiritual heritage. During this visit, I have had the opportunity to interact closely with the present leadership of Bhutan. I once again received their guidance for the India-Bhutan relationship, which has always benefitted from their close and personal attention.
Now, today, I am here, with the future of Bhutan. I can see the dynamism, and feel the energy. I am confident that these will shape the future of this great nation and its citizens. Whether I look at Bhutan’s past, present or future, the common and constant threads are – deep spirituality, and youthful vigour. These are also the strengths of our bilateral relationship.
It is natural that the people of Bhutan and India experience great attachment to each other. After all, we are close not just due to our geography. Our history, culture and spiritual traditions have created unique and deep bonds between our peoples and nations. India is fortunate to be the land where Prince Siddhartha became Gautam Buddha. And from where the light of his spiritual message, the light of Buddhism, spread all over the world. Generations of monks, spiritual leaders, scholars and seekers have burnt that flame bright in Bhutan. They have also nurtured the special bond between India and Bhutan.
As a result, our shared values have shaped a common world-view. This is visible in Varanasi and Bodh Gaya. And also in Dzong and Chorten. And as people, we are fortunate to be the living vehicle of this great legacy. No other two countries in the world understand each other so well or share so much. And no two countries are such natural partners in bringing prosperity to their peoples.
Today, India is witnessing historic transformations in a wide range of sectors.
India is eliminating poverty faster than ever before. The pace of infrastructure construction has doubled in the last five years. We have just pledged about 15 billion dollars for next-generation infrastructure. India is home to the world’s largest health-care programme, Ayushman Bharat that offers health assurance to 500 million Indians.
India has among the cheapest data connectivity in the world, which is directly and indirectly empowering millions. India is also home to among the biggest start-up eco-systems in the world. This is indeed a great time to innovate in India! These, and many other transformations have the dreams and aspirations of the youth of India at their core.
Today, I stand here among the best and brightest youth of Bhutan. His Majesty told me yesterday that he interacts with you regularly and had addressed the last convocation. It is from you all that Bhutan’s future leaders, innovators, business persons, sports persons, artists and scientists will emerge.
A few days back, my good friend, Prime Minister Doctor Tshering wrote a Facebook post that touched my heart. In that post he mentioned about Exam Warriors, and just now also a student mentioned about that book. Exam Warriors, a book I wrote about how to face exams without stress. Everyone faces exams in schools and colleges and also in the larger class-room of life. Can I tell you something? Much of what I wrote in Exam Warriors is influenced by the teachings of Lord Buddha. Particularly, the importance of positivity, over-coming fear and living in oneness, be it with the present moment or with Mother Nature. You are born in this great land.
Therefore, these traits come naturally to you and shape your personality. When I was young, the search of these traits took me all the way to the Himalayas! As children of this blessed soil, I am confident that you will contribute to finding solutions to the problems of our world.
Yes, we have challenges. But for every challenge, we have young minds to find innovative solutions to over-come them. Let no limitation constrain you.
I want to tell you all- there is no better time to be young than now! The world today offers more opportunities than ever before. You have the power and potential to do extra-ordinary things, which will impact generations to come. Find your real calling and pursue it with full passion.
India-Bhutan cooperation in hydro-power and energy is exemplary. But the real source of power and energy of this relationship are our people. So, it is people first, and people will always be at the centre of this relationship. This spirit is clearly seen in the outcomes of this visit. Going beyond the traditional sectors of cooperation, we are seeking to cooperate extensively in new frontiers, from schools to space, digital payments to disaster management. Our cooperation in all these sectors will have a direct impact on young friends like you. Let me give some examples. In this day and age, it is crucial to connect scholars and academics beyond borders, so that creativity and talent of our students bring them at par with the best in the world. Cooperation between India’s National Knowledge Network and Bhutan’s DrukREN, which became a reality yesterday, will serve this purpose.
It will provide secure and fast connectivity between our universities, research institutions, libraries, health-care and agricultural institutions. I urge you all to make full use of this facility.
Friends, Another example is the frontiers of space. At this very moment, India’s second Moon mission, Chandrayaan-2 is on the way to the moon. By 2022 we intend to place an Indian in space, on an Indian space-craft. All these are the results of India’s own achievements. For us, the space programme is not just a matter of national pride. It is a vital instrument of national development and global cooperation.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Tshering and I also inaugurated the Thimphu Ground Station of the South Asia Satellite and expanded our space cooperation. Through satellites, benefits of tele-medicine, distance education, resource mapping, weather fore-cast and even warning of natural disasters will reach even remote areas. It is even a matter of great happiness that young Bhutanese scientists will travel to India to work on designing and launching Bhutan’s own small satellite. I hope that someday soon, many of you will be scientists, engineers and innovators.
For centuries, education and learning have been central to the ties between India and Bhutan. In ancient times, Buddhist teachers and scholars formed the bridge of learning between our peoples. This is a price-less heritage, which we wish to preserve and promote. Therefore, we welcome more students of Buddhism from Bhutan in institutions such as Nalanda University – a historical global seat of learning and Buddhist traditions, which is revived at the very place where it existed fifteen hundred years ago. The bond of learning between us is as modern as it is ancient. In the 20th century, many Indians came to Bhutan as teachers. Most Bhutanese citizens 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.
At any point, over four thousand students from Bhutan are engaged in studies in India. This number can and should grow. As we march forward to develop our countries, we also need to keep pace with ever-changing technological landscape. It is, therefore, Important that we collaborate in all areas of emerging technologies and education.
I am happy that yesterday we have begun new chapters of engagement between India’s premier IITs and this prestigious University. We hope that these will lead to more collaborative learning and research.
In any part of the world, if we ask the question what do you associate with Bhutan, the answer will be the concept of Gross National Happiness. I am not surprised. Bhutan has understood the essence of happiness. Bhutan has understood the spirit of harmony, togetherness and compassion. This very spirit radiates from the adorable children who lined the streets to welcome me yesterday. I will always remember their smiles.
Swami Vivekananda had said, “Every nation has a message to deliver, a mission to fulfill, a destiny to reach”. 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 it is peace that will help societies achieve progress through sustainable development. In a time where development is often seen in conflict with traditions and the environment, the world has much to learn from Bhutan. Here, development, environment and culture are not at loggerheads but are in synergy. With the creativity, energy and commitment of our youth, our nations can achieve all that is required for a sustainable future – whether it is water conservation or sustainable agriculture or making our societies free of single-use plastic.
During my last visit to Bhutan, I had the privilege to visit the temple of democracy, the Parliament of Bhutan. Today, I have the honour to visit this temple of learning. Today, we also have in the audience Honourable Members of the Parliament of Bhutan. I especially thank them for their distinguished presence. Democracy and education both aim to set us free. Neither can be complete without the other. And both help us to achieve our fullest potential, and be the best we can. This seat of learning will once again set free our spirit of enquiry and will also keep the student within us alive.
As Bhutan soars high in these endeavours, your 1.3 billion Indian friends will not only just look on and cheer you with pride and happiness. But also they will partner you, share with you and learn from you. With these words, I would like to thank the chancellor of the Royal University of Bhutan His Majesty the King, the Vice Chancellor and the Faculty of the University, and all of you – my young friends.
You all have honoured me with your invitation and given me so much time, attention, and even more affection. I go back with a lot of happiness and positive energy from you all.