Bhutan and India decide on new trade routes

Rajesh rai | Phuentsholing

Bhutan and India included seven entry and exit points for trade in the Protocol to the Trade, Trade and Transit Agreement at a meeting at the Secretary of Commerce (CSLM) level on trade and transit issues in New Delhi, India on November 3.

This should increase trade connectivity between the two countries.

Economic Affairs Secretary Karma Tshering led the Bhutanese delegation. The Indian delegation was led by BVR Subrahmanyam, Secretary, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoCI).

According to an official MoCI statement, according to the Indian embassy office in Thimphu, “the two sides have had extensive discussions on current trade and transit issues, including measures to further strengthen relations. bilateral trade and matters of mutual interest, on ways to increase trade connectivity between the two countries.

“This will be an addendum to the protocol of the 2016 India-Bhutan agreement on trade, commerce and transit. This will facilitate bilateral trade between India and Bhutan to our mutual benefit, ”the ministry said.

Meanwhile, there are 21 approved exit and entry points in India for imports and exports from Bhutan in the Protocol to the Trade, Commerce and Transit Agreement signed between Bhutan and India in 2016.

These seven additional entry and exit points were approved by the GoI in 2017 and 2020 but were not included in the protocol of the bilateral agreement.

A member of the delegation said that following CSLM 2021, a letter of exchange was signed to include these entry and exit points under the protocol of the bilateral trade agreement. restriction, Agartala LCS, Pandu port (Guwahati Steamerghat), subject to cross-border control in Dhubri, and Jogighopa port subject to cross-border control in Dhubri.

Another entry-exit point is the Asian Highway 48 connecting Torsha Tea Garden in India and Ahllay to Pasakha as an additional route corresponding to the Jaigaon LCS.

Initially, the GoI agreed to allow Ahllay LCS to Pasakha as a trade route for industrial products from Pasakha in July 2020. Later in October 2020, the GoI approved trade in all goods and commodities.

Kamardwisa (Rangapani) and Birpara LCS are the other two entry-exit points.

Kamardwisa is located in Assam, India, and was notified in 2017. Exports through this route are mainly oranges, rocks, plaster of paris, cement, cement clinkers and betel nut, among others. Imports by this place are mainly vegetables, building materials, raw materials for local industries, among others.

Karmadwisa is about 140 km from Samdrupjongkhar and about 40 to 50 km from Nganglam.

Birpara is in West Bengal, India was also notified in 2017. Exports from here are mainly cement, pebbles, dolomite, rock, cardamom, scrap and betel nut, among others. Imports via Birpara are mainly raw materials for local industries and vegetables, among others.

Meanwhile, it was in December 2020 that India agreed to open four trade routes of Nagarkata LCS, Agartala LCS, Pandu Port and Jogighopa Port. Two river ports, Jogighopa and Pandu are both located in Assam on India’s National Waterway 2 along the Brahmaputra River.

A businessman from Gelephu said that Jogighopa would be the nearest river port at a distance of 98 km from Gelephu. The waterway will be three times cheaper than land transport.

“Jogighopa is much more doable,” he said. “It can accommodate three ships against one by the river port of Dhubri. “

However, logistics (port) development is not yet complete, the businessman said. The port of Pandu, on the other hand, is fully developed. It is closer to Samdrupjongkhar; about 95 km.

Agartala LCS is the furthest away, about 750 km from Gelephu.

The head of the delegation said Pandu, Jogighopa and Agartala had been approved by the GoI in 2020 but had not been notified.

“Now that the letter of exchange has been signed and these three entry and exit points have been included in the protocol of the bilateral trade agreement, it will be notified for use by the GoI. “

“Jogighopa is being developed by GoI as a multimodal logistics park which will only benefit Bhutan as it will also allow exports via the river system to India and Bangladesh,” the official said.

The head of the delegation said that there had been delays in infrastructure development in Jogighopa and the GoI assured that priority will be given to infrastructure development in Jogighopa.

“There are already facilities in Agartala LCS and Pandu. Exports through these places would largely be rocks and aggregates, agricultural products, finished and semi-finished industrial products, ”the official said.

Nagarkata LCS was also approved for trade in 2020. However, trade was not carried out from this route.

“If Nagarkata opens, we will use the Jitti border. It will be very beneficial. The distance to Bangladesh will be shortened, ”said an exporter from Tashichholing, adding that a distance of 80 km will be shortened.

“Today we have to import from Silliguri for which we have to go to Samtse,” he said.

The exporter said that before the pandemic, traders in Tashichholing imported and exported from Nagarkata.

The delegation member said that Nagarkata LCS in West Bengal, India corresponding to Jitti, Samtse (Bhutan) had been notified as a permanent LCS with no product restrictions in December 2020.

“Nagarkata remained non-operational because there was no necessary infrastructure and manpower in place. The road from Nagarkata Bazaar to Jitti in Bhutan is under development and other necessary infrastructure is being planned.

As an interim measure to facilitate Bhutanese exports through this route, the delegation member said that the Indian government is committed to establishing as a priority temporary infrastructure with the necessary manpower and other requirements such as Indian Customs electronic system to make LCS operational.

Trade between India and Bhutan has more than doubled from USD 484 million (M) in 2014 to 2015 to USD 1.08 billion in 2020-2021.

Edited by Tshering Palden

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