New Delhi: Philanthropist couple Bill and Melinda Gates Wednesday thanked the Indian government for naming them for Padma Bhushan, one of the country's top civilian honours, saying they were excited to see the progress India was making.

"We are honoured to receive the Padma Bhushan award for social work alongside so many distinguished awardees and thank the government of India for conferring this high distinction upon us," they said in a statement.

Bill and Melinda Gates
Bill and Melinda Gates. Pic/AFP

The couple said their work was guided by the belief that all lives have equal value. "We are excited to see the extraordinary progress that India is making in improving the lives of its people."

"With landmark policy announcements in healthcare, sanitation and financial inclusion, it has shown that, with the political will, the right tools and strong partnerships, it is possible to reach the most vulnerable populations with the services they need to live healthy and productive lives," the statement said.

Bill and Melinda Gates were named for Padma Bhushan in the Republic Day honours list Jan 26 for social work.

Their Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, started work in India in 2003 to prevent HIV/AIDS. It has since expanded its work to areas including vaccines, maternal and child health, sanitation and agricultural development, and has an office in New Delhi.