Choki Wangmo 

Movement of goods and people between India and Bhutan is expected to improve once the Indian government completes the construction of an Integrated Checkpost (ICP) at Alay, Pasakha.

The two governments agreed on this during His Majesty The King’s visit to India earlier this month.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade Dr Tandi Dorji said that although there were ICPs along the Bhutanese border in Gelephu, Phuentsholing, Samtse, Samdrupjongkhar, and Nganglam, trade was challenging as there were no ICPs on the Indian side.

“As there was free movement during pre-Covid times, we recognised this challenge during the pandemic,” he said.

The Indian government will soon set up the first ICP along the India-Bhutan border near Jaigaon and Phuentsholing, the busiest trading point between India and Bhutan. The joint press release from Bhutan and the Government of India (GoI) states that GoI will support the development of mirror facilities on the Bhutanese side too.

The construction of ICP started in Phuentsholing.

Lyonpo said that the government has also requested the Indian government to open additional foreigners checkposts between Bhutan and Assam to facilitate the entry and exit of third-country nationals between India and Bhutan travelling by land. 

If the request comes through, the additional immigration and customs checkpost is expected to be opened from Samdrupjongkhar.

The decision might come as a great relief particularly for international tourists who couldn’t enter or exit through other land routes, except Phuentsholing, due to the lack of immigration and customs office on the Indian side of the border.

If functional, it might also benefit areca nut exporters in the country, who have to travel long distances to Phuentsholing to export their produce. As of now, Phuentsholing is the only official trade route for areca nut export.

However, Lyonpo said that this might be costly for the Indian government as there is not much traffic in other areas like Samtse, Gelephu, Samdrupjongkhar, and Nganglam.