Trade: Bhutan and West Bengal have renewed their commitment to pursue the Golden Jubilee Railway line from Hashimara to Bhutan, which was earlier halted due to land acquisition problems in West Bengal.

This was discussed in a meeting between the visiting Chief Minister (CM) of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee and Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay yesterday.

Emerging from the hour-long meeting at the Gyalyong Tshogkhang, Mamata Banerjee described the discussion as excellent and Bhutan a great friend of India.

The CM, who served as India’s railway minister twice, said India and Bhutan would review and examine the railway project. “Actually, it was not within our knowledge. Today he (Lyonchoen) raised this issue,” the CM said.

She said the situation has to be reviewed as the proposed area falls in the air base area. The railway line was announced by former Indian Prime Minister (Dr) Manmohan Singh when he addressed the parliament in 2008.

The CM said that if there were problems regarding land accusation, the two sides would go for other options such as “elevated way or something”. However, she said the people couldn’t be forced for land acquisition.

The Prime Minister gave a separate briefing to reporters after the meeting.

The Prime Minister said some land issues had delayed the project during the pre-construction phase. “However, hearing from the CM, the issue can be resolved and will be resolved,” the Prime Minister said.

The proposed railway, he said, will connect our people, economies and the countries. “We are very optimistic.”

On the prospects of foreign direct investment (FDI) coming in from West Bengal, Lyonchoen said Bhutan’s FDI policy was liberal and that the country offers huge opportunity for investors. “There is tremendous potential for Bhutan to work with entrepreneurs of West Bengal and also to form joint ventures in Bhutan.” He was responding to an Indian journalist.

He said proposals should come from entrepreneurs and that there was already a delegation of business community from West Bengal in Bhutan to attend a business conclave in Thimphu. “We provide, clean and sustainable environment, good brand name, political stability, easy way of doing business, good rules and regulations that are liberal,” he said.

West Bengal and India in turn, he said would provide market for goods produced in Bhutan. He said Bhutan and India have signed a free trade agreement, which provides for a win-win situation.

The prime minister said a second highway linking Pasakha to West Bengal is in the pipeline. He said the West Bengal government has already sanctioned the entry into Bhutan through Bow bazar in Jaigoan.

This would be a five-kilometre stretch in India and two kilometres in Bhutan. “I understand that the construction is beginning. Along with this development, he said land customs station is also being built.

Mamata Banerjee said that the Prime Minister has been kind to visit India in 2013 and 2014 and that he would be visiting India in November this year for a business conclave. “The prime minister is so kind that he visits India always,” she said.

From agriculture to the tourism sector, she said Bhutan and West Bengal could work together as the two countries have “best of the best relations”.

“In future India and Bhutan will work together not as different countries but as brothers and sisters,” she said.

Responding to a question from an Indian journalist that China was building rail link close to Bhutan border, he said, “Where China builds its railways is up to them but as far as I know they are no way near Bhutan’s border.”

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay added that when Bhutan and India build railways, that is up to the two countries. He said that Bhutan is linked to rest of the world because of friendship with India.

MB Subba