YK Poudel

The Indian Government (GoI) will soon start working on the detailed project reports (DPRs) for two railway networks connecting Bhutan and India.

This information was shared by Vinay Mohan Kwatra, Foreign Secretary of India, during Friday’s press briefing.

The two railway projects between Bhutan and India are from Gelephu to Kokrajhar, covering a distance of 60 kilometres, and from Samtse to Banarhat, which is between 15 and 18 kilometres long.

This agreement was one of the seven Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) signed Friday between Bhutan and India. The MoU was signed by Vinay Mohan Kwatra and Foreign Secretary Pema Choden.

The signing ceremony was attended by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, and Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay.

Bhutan’s railway connection with India is currently under a field-level engineering study process, the initial phase of the project.

Vinay Mohan Kwatra said that the field-level engineering study would be completed within a few months, after which the detailed report on the construction would be initiated.

“The larger issue to keep in mind is the drive of regional connectivity which is not just about the connection through railways, but through infrastructure development—the new age connectivity which includes financial connectivity and digital connectivity,” said Vinay Mohan Kwatra. “These are also the mechanisms which not only connects the people of two countries but also brings together two economies closer.”

The GoI, he added, will prioritise and focus on ensuring that the railways are constructed and completed on time.

Earlier, during Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay’s visit to India, the joint statement between Bhutan and India highlighted that both countries acknowledged the progress made towards establishing two railways. It was mentioned that the Northeast Frontier Railway is conducting the Final Location Survey for the two railways in consultation with Bhutan.

Currently, Bhutanese exporters encounter challenges due to various restrictions when transporting goods through India by trucks. The construction of the Bhutan-India railway link is expected to improve trade and tourism between the two nations and enhance connectivity. It is expected to facilitate smoother movement of goods and people, boosting economic activities, and strengthening bilateral ties.

In 2008, the then Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, announced the construction of the Nehru Golden Jubilee railway link during his visit to Bhutan to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s historic visit to Bhutan in 1958.

The budgetary details for the railway project are still being finalised. Bhutan and India signed an agreement in 2005 to connect the bordering towns of the two countries through a railway link.