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Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Modi-King meet: India, Bhutan to expand cross-border rail, tech, investments & trade connect

New Delhi: India ↗ and Bhutan ↗ on Monday decided to further deepen cross-border linkages through expansion of bilateral cooperation on trade, technology, cross-border connectivity, mutual investments, and education and people-to-people connections.

These decisions were agreed upon during a meeting between PM Narendra Modi ↗ and Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck here on Monday night.

The two leaders positively assessed expanding partnership between the two countries, including in new areas of connectivity in its broadest form, cross-border trade infrastructure, trade and mutual investments, energy, health, education, skill development ↗, space technology, and environment conservation, and close people-to-people contacts.

It was decided to undertake the Final Location Survey (FLS), in consultation with the Bhutanese side, of the proposed cross-border rail link connecting Kokrajhar in Assam to Gelephu in Bhutan through Indian support, according to a joint statement issued after the talks.

The two sides noted successful completion of the Preliminary Engineering-cum-Traffic (PET) survey of the rail-link by Indian Railways. The two sides also agreed to consider establishing a rail-link between Banarhat (West Bengal) and Samtse (Bhutan).

It was decided to designate Darranga (Assam)/Samdrup Jongkhar (Bhutan) as immigration check-post between Bhutan and India to facilitate the entry and exit of third country nationals by land route for enhancing connectivity, and promoting tourism.

India has decided to positively consider Bhutan’s request for concessional financing in the area of skill development and capacity building under the GyalSung Project ↗.

It was also decided to designate Haldibari (West Bengal) – Chilahati (Bangladesh) rail route as an additional trade route for Bhutan’s trade with Bangladesh, according to the joint statement.

India will provide bridge financing for the period between 12th and 13th Five-Year Plans of Bhutan for New Delhi assisted projects and schemes.

It was also decided to strengthen trade infrastructure, including by suitable upgradation of the existing land customs station at Dadgiri (Assam) to an integrated check-post through India’s support along with development of facilities on the Bhutanese side at Gelephu (Bhutan).

India will allocate additional MBBS seats for Bhutanese students in medical colleges in Assam. It was also decided to double the outlay under Ambassador’s scholarship for Bhutanese students pursuing higher education in India.

During the meeting, it was agreed to extend the existing India-Bhutan energy partnership in hydro to non-hydro renewables, such as solar as well as green initiatives for hydrogen and e-mobility. The Indian side assured necessary technical and financial support for projects in these areas, according to the joint statement.

The new areas of Indo-Bhutanese partnership now encompass Startups ↗, Space and STEM education.

The King’s visit assumes significance in the backdrop of Bhutan’s foreign minister’s recent visit to China to expedite boundary deals and momentum in Sino-Bhutanese ties. India is keeping a close eye as Bhutan-China negotiations are picking momentum towards a boundary settlement deal.

James Mackreides
James Mackreides
'Mac' is a short tempered former helicopter pilot , now a writer based in Sofia, Bulgaria. Loves dogs, the outdoors and staying far away from the ocean.

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