Staff Reporter 

Bhutan and India charted the way forward on major projects in hydropower, renewal energy, trade, communications, and 13th Plan following the three-day visit of His Majesty The King to New Delhi on April 3.

Taking the exemplary development partnership between the two countries forward, the Indian side agreed to step up support for Bhutan’s 13th Plan. It has released about 90 percent of its committed assistance for the 12th Plan.

According to a joint press release, India also extended standby credit facility at reduced interest rate and extended settlement period, and agreed to provide an additional currency swap support of USD 200 million.

“The Indian side agreed to positively consider Bhutan’s request to extend an additional Standby Credit Facility (SCF) for a period of five years,” the release stated.

Both sides reiterated their commitment to finding a technically sound and cost-effective way forward for Punatsangchhu-I HEP. India offered to revise the tariff to Nu 3 per unit, a 17 percent increase over the earlier tariff. India also assured necessary technical and financial assistance for projects in non-hydro renewables.

It was also agreed to explore long-term bilateral arrangements for assured supply of critical commodities to Bhutan such as petroleum, fertilizers, and coal.

The operationalisation of the Third International Internet Gateway for Bhutan  would be expedited, for which, the GoI is extending a concessional rate to reduce the cost of its operations, the press release stated.

The first integrated check post along India-Bhutan border near Jaigaon and Phuentsholing, would be through GOI support along with development of mirror facilities on the Bhutanese side.

The two governments agreed to take forward the project on the proposed cross-border rail link connecting Kokrajhar in Assam to Gelephu in Bhutan through GoI support in consultation with the Bhutanese side based on the engineering and technical survey completed by Indian Railways.

“This will be a historic project as it will be the first ever rail link between India and Bhutan and will enhance the regional connectivity infrastructure as well,” the press release stated.

The two governments also agreed to work towards the opening of additional foreigners check posts between Bhutan and Assam to facilitate the entry and exit of third-country nationals between India and Bhutan by land route.

In terms of new areas of partnership which now encompass startups, space and STEM education, both sides agreed to deepen the partnership in the space technology sector by finalizing a Joint Plan of Action expeditiously; and strengthen cooperation on skill development and education, keeping the future of youth at the heart of bilateral cooperation.

The joint press release also stated that India and Bhutan share an exemplary bilateral relationship characterized by trust, goodwill and mutual understanding at all levels, strong bonds of friendship and close people-to-people contact.

The leaders held discussions on the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation and on regional and global issues of mutual interest. The leaders expressed satisfaction on the manner in which India and Bhutan assisted each other in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. The leaders also agreed to closely work together for progress and development in the region as economies recover from the pandemic, according to the press release.