India and Bhutan to Enhance Connectivity and Support Smart City Project

  • 08 Nov 2023

India and Bhutan have recently agreed to explore new routes for regional connectivity and upgrade border and immigration posts, backing Bhutan's plan for a smart city at Gelephu, situated on the Bhutan-Assam border.

  • This decision followed a meeting between Prime Minister and Bhutan's 5th King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck in Delhi.

Key Points

  • Cross-Border Rail Links: Both countries have agreed to proceed with the final survey for a 58 km cross-border rail link between Gelephu and Kokrajhar in Assam, which India will build. Additionally, they plan to explore a second rail link spanning approximately 18 km between Samtse in Bhutan and Banarhat in West Bengal's tea gardens area.
  • Expansion of Trade Routes: India has also consented to allowing Bhutanese trade items to be transported from Haldibari in West Bengal to Chilahati in Bangladesh.
  • This move could potentially boost air connectivity for residents in India's northeastern region, as Bhutan intends to construct an international airport at Gelephu as part of the larger Sarpang district Special Economic Zone, an initiative set to be announced by the Bhutanese King on December 17.
  • Development Assistance: India expressed its commitment to supporting Bhutan's 13th Five-Year Plan following the successful collaboration during Bhutan's 12th Five-Year Plan, which ended on October 31, 2023.
  • Immigration Check Post: The Darranga-Samdrup Jongkhar border crossing between Assam and Bhutan's less developed South Eastern district is designated as an immigration check post, enabling third-country nationals to enter and exit.
  • This move is aimed at enhancing connectivity, promoting tourism, and supporting Bhutan's Special Economic Zone project.
  • Boosting Bhutan's Economy: Easing travel between India and Bhutan and facilitating exchanges to Bangladesh is expected to expand trade opportunities and tourism revenue, offering economic relief for Bhutan, which has faced challenges due to the COVID pandemic and youth out-migration.