India, Bhutan agree to expand connectivity

NewsDrum Desk
06 Nov 2023
New Update

New Delhi, Nov 6 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday conveyed to Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck India's strong commitment to its unique ties of friendship with the Himalayan nation and reiterated full support to the socio-economic development of Bhutan based on its priorities.


A joint statement issued after Modi-Wangchuck talks said the two sides agreed on a final location survey for the proposed cross-border rail link connecting Kokrajhar in Assam to Gelephu in Bhutan.

The two sides also agreed to consider establishing a rail link between Banarhat in West Bengal and Samtse in Bhutan.

Modi and Wangchuck "positively assessed" expanding India-Bhutan partnership including in new areas of connectivity in its "broadest form", cross-border trade infrastructure, trade and mutual investments, energy, health, education, space technology and people-to-people contacts, the statement said.


The Bhutan King began his eight-day visit to India from Guwahati on November 3. His high-profile trip to India came amid renewed push by Bhutan and China for an early settlement of their decades-old boundary dispute.

"In his interaction with His Majesty, the prime minister reaffirmed India's abiding commitment to its unique ties of friendship and cooperation with Bhutan and reiterated continued and full support to the socio-economic development in Bhutan based on the priorities of the Royal Government and as per the vision of His Majesty," the joint statement said.

It said Wangchuck shared valuable perspective and insights on the ongoing reforms process in Bhutan and conveyed appreciation for the invaluable support that India continues to provide for Bhutan's socio-economic development.


"The Bhutanese side thanked the government of India for the timely release of development assistance to ensure smooth and uninterrupted conclusion of crucial projects under the 12th Five Year Plan (2018-2023)," the statement said.

"To take the exemplary bilateral partnership forward, the Indian side reiterated commitment to step up support for Bhutan's 13th Five Year Plan, which was welcomed by the Bhutanese side," it said.

It said Modi and Wangchuck held discussions on the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation as well as regional and global issues of mutual interest.


In the delegation-level talks, the two sides agreed on nine specific points that included undertaking a final location survey of the proposed cross-border rail link connecting Kokrajhar to Gelephu through New Delhi's support.

The two sides noted successful completion of the preliminary engineering-cum-traffic (PET) survey of the rail-link by the Indian Railways.

They also agreed to designate Darranga (Assam) and 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.


The joint statement said India will 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) to Chilahati (Bangladesh) rail route as an additional trade route for Bhutan's trade with Bangladesh.

The statement said 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 agreed to strengthen trade infrastructure, including by suitable upgradation of the existing Land Customs station at Dadgiri (Assam) to Integrated Check Post through India's support along with development of facilities on the Bhutanese side at Gelephu.

The two sides also agreed to strengthen collaborative framework in environmental conservation and wildlife preservation as they underscored shared commitment to safeguarding the ecological diversity of the region.

It was also agreed to allocate additional MBBS seats for Bhutanese students in medical colleges in Assam as an endeavour to ensure access to quality medical education and training to Bhutanese nationals.

The statement said another decision was taken to double the outlay under Ambassador's scholarship for Bhutanese students pursuing higher education in India.

From Delhi, the Bhutan King will travel to Mumbai. PTI MPB CK