Four new trade routes to open between India and Bhutan

These trade routes will be operational soon

To boost the trade relations between India and Bhutan, India has agreed to Bhutan’s request to open four new trade routes for bilateral and transit trade between the two countries.

The four new trade route points at Nagarkata, Agartala, Jogighopa and Pandu could be a major boost to the country’s bilateral and transit trade with India and Bangladesh and the Government of India (GoI) has agreed to open these trade routes.

These trade routes will be operational soon.

Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma said these trade routes will be initiated soon to boost the country’s bilateral and transit trade with India and Bangladesh, and it will also look to increase logistical efficiency in terms of both time and costs. “We will diversify trade and use multimodal freight transport like water, air and railway among others,” said Lyonpo.

“Nagarkata has been identified as a permanent route, and others are under process to get notification from GoI,” added Lyonpo.

Talking about the benefits of the trade routes, the economic affairs minister said it will ease logistics, lessen costs on transportation, and increase market to products.

Since the export and import points were short of manpower, Bhutan Export Association has addressed this issue. The economic affairs ministry said most of these trade routes are operational, and wherever required, facilities will have to be augmented. Importantly these are trading routes for which customs and other formalities are a must, and GoI has assessed their side before accepting the proposal.
Lyonpo also commented on the sustenance of additional trade as these trade routes are not exclusively for Bhutan, and trading from these points is happening either internally in India, or between India, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

“However, though our volume of trade is comparatively low, additional access points will further boost these regular trade routes,” Lyonpo said adding that they are confident that these trade routes will be used by traders as alternate points of access and market reach.

General Secretary to Bhutan Export Association, Tshering Yeshey said for export of seasonal goods like cardamom, orange and certain cash crops, the export would have to be either to Bangladesh or India and taking that boulders through Jitti in Samtse was not possible as there are four bridges which can hold only 8MT. “The GoI was notified to facilitate smoother export from the area.”

The trade route from Nagarkata port in West Bengal which borders Jitti in Samtse has been identified and agreed as a permanent seasonal Land Customs Station (LCS) with restricted trade of certain commodities only namely orange, cardamom and ginger export. However, there will be no restriction on the movement of the commodity, thereby allowing Bhutan to export boulders and river bed materials to India and other third countries.

The new trade route Agartala in Tripura is expected to facilitate Bhutan’s trade with Bangladesh through India. Jogighopa and Pandu are both located in Assam along the Brahmaputra River which will be additional trade routes for Bhutan’s bilateral and transit trade with India.

The press release from the Embassy of India in Thimphu states that the developments will aim at benefiting Bhutanese traders by increasing logistical efficiency in terms of both time and costs.

The press release also states that India will continue to extend all possible support to Bhutan to minimize the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sonam Tashi from Thimphu