Development and upgradation of new Indo-Bhutan cross border trade routes are expected to give a quantum jump to the commercial strata of economically backward Himalayan foothills region in northern West Bengal
According to senior officials in Bhutan Ministry of Economic Affairs, Indian commerce Ministry has informed Bhutan that planned LCS at Loksan and Nagrakata are being upgraded to permanent instead of keeping them seasonal. In addition, other permanent LCS will be established at places including Birpara, Rangapani, Upper Khogla in Bengal adjoining foothills. This decision follows an agreement of two countries to open up 16 other new trade routes.
“Open international border between the two country facilitates opportunity for lakhs of Indians to get directly or indirectly involved into Bhutan’s trade activities. Hence, growth in cross border trade will boost the number of these beneficiaries here,” said Kamal Agarwal, a veteran trader operating predominantly in Indo-Bhutan border markets.
Industrially deprived Himalayan foothills region is entirely dependent on agriculture and tea. But both of them face deep crisis due to meteorological whims or fragile geology. “Beside modernized agriculture activities, better trade environment is the option for development of this region,” opined Lochan.
Apart from the trade with its largest trade partner India, being land locked, Bhutan is dependent on Indian passage for its third country trade. Though rupee value wise the indo-Bhutan trade figure is not too high against India’s total exim value, but Bhutan’s external trade as a whole is too important for thousands of Indian citizens in border areas.
According to Bhutan Customs statistics for the year 2016, with external trade volume worth Rs 7237.6 crore, Bhutan’s trade with India remained of Rs 5932.8 crore with Rs 2432.4 balance of trade in favour of India. These figures are without electricity, Bhutan’s largest tradable commodity.