Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday launched the second phase of domestic card network RuPay’s expansion in Bhutan during a virtual conference held with Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering. In August 2019, during his state-visit to Bhutan, PM Modi announced that visitors from India could access ATMs and Point of Sale (PoS) terminals across Bhutan through RuPay cards.
Under the Phase-2 roll-out, Bhutanese card holders can access the RuPay network in India, a government press release says. “I’m happy to know that there have been 11,000 successful Rupay transactions in Bhutan already. Had Covid not happened, this number would have been much higher. We are launching the Phase II of the RuPay Card scheme,” PM Modi said during the conference. “This would make tourism, shopping and other transactions easier for Bhutanese tourists in India,” he said, adding that this initiative will help grow digital transactions in the neighbouring country.
The Bhutan National Bank has launched RuPay card issuances in the country, whereby Bhutanese bank customers can use the cards at Indian ATMs for transactions up to ₹1 lakh and up to ₹20 lakh at PoS terminals.
RuPay is a card network developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) in 2021 to take on the might of global giants Visa and Mastercard. As of January 2020, a total of 600 million RuPay cards have been issued by 1,100 banks, according to data on the RuPay website. The card network has gained prominence among Indian bank customers on the back of various government schemes including, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, Kisan Credit Cards, Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana and a scheme for grain procurement launched by the Punjab Government. In August 2020, the NPCI set up a subsidiary to take its flagship products such as the Unified Payments Interface and RuPay abroad.
In August last year, the NPCI launched the card network in the United Arab Emirates across 175,000 merchant acceptance locations of 21 businesses and 5,000 ATMs in the middle-east country. The RuPay card network has also been introduced in the Maldives, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, while the NPCI has enabled the card to be accepted in Bahrain, as well. In February this year, India signed a deal to launch the RuPay card network in Myanmar. Further, in June this year, as part of India’s strategic ties with Australia the two countries plan to explore the possibility of launching RuPay in Australia.
Space and internet co-operation
India and Bhutan have also signed a framework for peaceful usage of space. “Recently, India and Bhutan signed a framework for Peaceful Usage of Outer Space. This will help institutions in both countries and improve cooperation. India has recently opened its space sector for private enterprises. This will promote capacity, innovation and skills,” the PM said. “I am delighted that work is going on rapidly to send Bhutan’s satellite to space with the help of ISRO, next year. For this purpose, Bhutan’s four space engineers will go to ISRO in December, I send my regards to these four youth,” he added.
Further, PM Modi also said that India will support Bhutan in creating a Internet-Communication-Technology knowledge based society. “For Bhutan, we will be enabling Third International Internet Gateway in Bhutan, and welcome the agreement signed with BSNL,” he said.