Roads to Bhutan

Assam and Bhutan have a long history of friendship and cooperation.
Roads to Bhutan

Assam and Bhutan have a long history of friendship and cooperation. While the visit of the Bhutanese king to Assam recently has already been described as historic in many aspects, including that it was the first-ever visit of any head of state to Assam, it has only further strengthened this cooperation and opened up new possibilities for people living on both sides of the 267-km international boundary. The most important thing that both Assam and Bhutan share is road connectivity, and as history shows, there were several duars between Assam and Bhutan, which have been recorded in history as Eastern Duars, which are nothing but vital connectivity points through which people of both sides engaged in mutually beneficial economic activities. It is in this backdrop that, reviewing the recent visit of the Bhutanese king, the Assam Chief Minister has identified the proper upkeep of roads connecting the two sides as a top priority area for long-lasting mutual socio-economic gains. It is important to note that a major portion of Bhutan’s exports and imports are carried out through Assam. This in turn brings a lot of direct and indirect economic benefits to Assam in particular and to the people living in those districts, which share an international boundary with the neighbouring Himalayan kingdom. Additionally, there is also the benefit accruing from tourism, which again has a lot to do with better roads, better roadside amenities, and the warm hospitality of the local communities on either side. Assam has five major roads connecting Bhutan. These roads cross the international boundary at Saralpara (Kokrajhar district), Gelephu (Chirang district), Samdrup Jonkhar (Tamulpur district), Bhairabkunda (Udalguri district), and Chowki (Baksa district). The movement of vehicles bearing Bhutanese registration numbers is a common sight in the districts of Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Chirang, Bongaigaon, Barpeta, Baska, Tamulpur, and Nalbari. Most of the Bhutanese people travelling through these districts look forward to a friendly community on the Assam side, which provides them with vital assurance of security and safety. In return, the local communities provide them services through hotels, restaurants, hospitals, and markets, which finally bring a lot of money to the local economy. Given this background, while the maintenance of good roads is very important, it is also equally important to inform and make the communities in Assam’s border districts aware of the economic benefits that can be shared by way of increased friendly relationships and warmth with people from the other side. As reported in this newspaper in its Saturday edition, Bhutan during 2020 exported and imported goods worth Rs 421 crore through the Gelephu corridor and goods worth Rs 884 crore through the Samdrup Jonkhar corridor.

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Sentinel Assam