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India and Bhutan to have new transit routes soon
Debasis Sarkar, ET Bureau, January 26, 2014
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SILIGURI: In order to facilitate growth in cross border trade, Indian and its North eastern neighbor Himalayan country Bhutan are going to have many new transit routes soon.

Apart from the trade with its largest trade partner India, Bhutan is dependent on Indian passage for its third country trade too because of its land locked location in the lap of Himalaya. Naturally, though rupee value wise the indo-Bhutan trade figure is not too high against India's total exim value, but Bhutan's external trade as a whole is too important for over lakhs of Indian citizens in Bhutan border areas stretching from Northern West Bengal to eastern Assam involved directly or indirectly into it.

According to economic affairs secretary of Bhutan, Dasho Sonam Tshering, bypass to Passakha and Samdrupjongkhar industrial estates in Bhutan was one of the top agendas of the Indo-Bhutan bilateral talks on trade and transit held recently in Thimphu, capital of Bhutan. The bypass route can give faster access to deep Bhutan including Thimphu. In addition, Matanga industrial estate in Samdrupjongkhar district in Bhutan is being planned to be directly connected to Bokajuli in Assam by passing Samdrupjongkhar town.

Transportation of minerals like dolomite from Samdrupjongkhar to Nepal faces a bottlenecking because of congestion of Raxaul in UP, that acts as the exit gate for the goods from India to Nepal. Bhutan's request for couple of other railway points are under very positive consideration- informed a senior Indian revenue Department official.

However, India's request to Bhutan to withdraw its ban on import of vehicles, alcohol or furniture are not likely to have positive response soon as the country is in its desperate process of minimizing its balance of payment.

Under a free trade agreement between the two countries, the existing one is effective since 21006 for ten years. Bhutan enjoys duty free transit of Bhutanese merchandise for trade with third countries too.

Indo-Bhutan bilateral trade is of over Rs 6,000 crore with near Rs 4,000 crore of India export that constitutes over 70 per cent of Bhutan's total import. Out of the rest, 80 per cent of Bhutan's export value to India is for hydropower of which also India is the largest buyer.

This article first appeared here

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