The pedestrian terminal in Phuentsholing is a new development. Our neighbours see it in two ways. While some welcome the idea, others do not.

That’s why a familiarisation tour for our neighbours was important. Bhutan invited some 80 officials and representatives from across the border to visit the Pedestrian Terminal.

Among those invited were SSB’s deputy inspector general (sector headquarters, Jalpaiguri), Jaigaon customs’ assistant commissioner, TMC’s district presidents of Alipurduar District and Kalchini Block, Jaigaon Development Authority’s chairman, heads and representative.

Having received bad press, Bhutan had to invite decision-makers from across the border to let them truly understand the idea behind the pedestrian terminal.

Many left with a good understanding. They even praised Bhutan’s effort to construct such a facility at the border.

Binay Nahata, a representative, said: “I am happy and excited to be in Phuentsholing and meet my old friends and neighbours.” He said that the pedestrian terminal is of an international standard infrastructure that is seen in airports across the world. It is, he said, equipped with sophisticated and automatic equipment that a terminal should have.

Bhutan’s idea is to streamline the movement of people and trade between India and Bhutan. Investment has been heavy and our friends from across the border see the merit of it.

One Indian official said, “I am happy and excited to be in Phuentsholing and meet my old friends and neighbours.”

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the immigration rules that will be applied at the pedestrian terminal from September 23 are not new.  

“We are just streamlining the rules that have been in place. Although it may be inconvenient for some right now, it will benefit the nation, the people in the town and help us in the future.”  Illegal trade is one of the biggest concerns in border towns. The pedestrian terminal will address this issue to a large extent.

The terminal has a purpose. There may be inconveniences but what is important is to curb illegal activities along the border towns.  In that respect, the kind of support we are getting from our neighbours across the border is a sign of enduring friendship between the two countries.

The pedestrian terminal in Phuentsholing is a symbol of trust and respect between Bhutan and India.