India, Bhutan agree on steps to boost cooperation in hydropower, trade and space
India and Bhutan have decided to set up the first integrated check post (ICP) along the border near Jaigaon and Phuntsholing, the busiest trading point between the countries.
NEW DELHI: India and Bhutan have agreed on several new measures to enhance their cooperation in areas such as hydropower, trade and space, including the finalisation of a joint plan of action to deepen the space technology partnership.
These measures were finalised during Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck’s visit to New Delhi which ended on Wednesday. The visit came against the backdrop of renewed focus on Bhutan’s efforts to resolve a border dispute with China, and Indian officials said the security concerns of New Delhi and Thimphu are “intertwined and indivisible”.
The two sides will focus on new areas of cooperation such as startups, space and STEM education, following progress in the space sector, including the launch of the first satellite developed by India and Bhutan and the inauguration of the ground earth station in Thimphu, said a joint statement issued on Wednesday.
The two countries will deepen the space technology partnership by expeditiously finalising a joint plan of action, the joint statement said.
In the field of hydropower cooperation, a cornerstone of the bilateral economic partnership, both sides expressed their commitment to greater subregional cooperation, including with Bangladesh, and reviewed the functioning of projects totalling 2,136 MW.
Bhutan receives a steady stream of revenue from the sale of power from hydropower plants and India benefits from the assured supply of energy. The two sides agreed to find a “technically sound and cost-effective way forward” for the Punatsangchhu-I plant.
They also expressed satisfaction with the progress in constructing the 1,020-MW Punatshangchhu-II plant, which is expected to be commissioned by early 2024. Both sides have initiated tariff discussions and agreed to conclude the tariff protocol for this project speedily.
The Bhutanese side welcomed India’s offer to revise the tariff for power from Chhukha hydropower plant to ₹3 a unit, representing a 17% increase over the earlier rate. The Indian side agreed to consider Bhutan’s request for sale of power into the Indian Energy Exchange from the 64-MW Basochhu plant.
In the field of trade and connectivity, India and Bhutan agreed to work on long-term sustainable arrangements for the export of agricultural commodities from Bhutan and assured supply of critical commodities such as petroleum, fertilisers and coal from India.
The two sides will set up the first integrated check post (ICP) along the border near Jaigaon and Phuntsholing, the busiest trading point between the countries. This will be done with the Indian government’s support along with the development of mirror facilities on the Bhutanese side.
They also agreed to expedite the operationalisation of the third international internet gateway for Bhutan, for which India is extending a concessional rate to reduce the cost of operations.
Besides his meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Droupadi Murmu, Wangchuck interacted with Indian business leaders to find ways to expand economic and commercial ties.