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Opening Remarks by Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj at the 4th...
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4th India-Bhutan DVC on Trade-Related Operational Issues

13 January 2021 | 11:30 hrs (Bhutan Time)

Opening Remarks by Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj

Shri Amitabh Kumar, Joint Secretary, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India;

Ms. Rinchen Lhazom, Officiating Director General, Department of Trade, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Royal Government of Bhutan;

All colleagues from Bhutan and India.

1. As a follow-up to the visit of Hon’ble Railway and Commerce & Industry Minister of India Shri Piyush Goyal, to Bhutan on 28-29 February 2020, we have been holding regular DVC meetings between India’s Department of Commerce and Bhutan’s Department of Commerce to discuss and resolve trade-related operational issues. We have held three DVC meetings over the past year and I thank the leaders of the two delegations for agreeing to start this new year with our fourth DVC meeting, in spite of the nationwide lockdown in Bhutan.

2. Bhutan is India’s priority partner. It is no exaggeration therefore when we say that ours is an exemplary partnership. Our close trade and economic ties are a reflection of the special bonds of trust and understanding we share. India is Bhutan’s top trading partner and we enjoy free trade and commerce with Bhutan.

3. Though the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, India has extended the fullest cooperation and support to Bhutan in terms of ensuring seamless movement of essential and non-essential commodities. That as we see this was our duty and responsibility and indeed it has been our honour to have done so. 

4. Turning to matters at hand, the Government of India has delivered on a number of requests made by the Bhutanese side during the past year. The key highlights are:

i. Opening of five trade routes: at Ahllay (thereby reducing the congestion at the busy Jaigaon-Phuentsholing route); notification of Nagarkata as a permanent Land Customs Station without any commodity restrictions; new routes at Agartala; new riverine ports at Pandu and Jogighopa, which will improve Bhutan’s trade with India as well as with Bangladesh.

ii. New market access for five agri-exports of Bhutan and three agri-exports of India. This has resulted in a marked increase in agri-trade between our two countries.

iii. The first Plant Quarantine office on the India-Bhutan border was opened at Jaigaon to facilitate exports of agri-products.

iv. Indian Railways has completed the preliminary survey for the new cross-border rail line between Mujnai and Nyoenpaling.

v. We have helped match Bhutan’s agri-producers with Indian supermarket chains.

vi. India will provide training to over 100 Bhutanese entrepreneurs at the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India , Gandhinagar and the Indian Institute of Packaging, New Delhi. Upon Bhutan’s request, the training visits will take place once the Covid situation improves.

vii. We are working on a proposal for conducting a feasibility study to establish an Entrepreneurship Development Institute in Bhutan.

viii. GoI has accorded extension of time for the enforcement of BIS certification requirement for Bhutan’s export of Ferro-Silicon products.

ix. GoI has made a special exemption to allow the export of low Sulphur petcoke to Bhutan through Indian Oil Corporation Limited.

x. Our Embassy facilitated a virtual buyer-seller meet between Bhutan and APEDA last week to take forward bilateral cooperation on trade in agri and food processed products. Last month, we also held a virtual meeting on organic farming between stakeholders from Bhutan and Sikkim.

5. These positive developments have resulted in a further bolstering of our bilateral trade and commercial relations. Some fresh issues remain under discussion, such as Bhutan’s request to include seven more crops in the PQ Order of India and requests relating to an adjustment of GoI policies in some areas. May I assure the Bhutanese side that the Embassy together with our colleagues from the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, Government of India is on these cases, and I am confident that we should close these shortly, given the special nature of the bilateral relationship.

6. I cannot conclude without commending the two sides for achieving remarkable progress on a number of outcomes in less than a year since Hon’ble CIM’s visit to Bhutan.  A special thank you to Joint Secretary Amitabh Kumar and Ms. Rinchen Lhazom for this successful collaboration.  It goes without saying that none of this would have been possible without the leadership and support of the Commerce and Industry Minister Shri Piyush Goyal Ji, whose stamp is marked indelibly through these meetings. 

7. As I taper off, may I suggest that we consider holding at a mutually convenient date, and through virtual mode if suitable, the next Commerce Secretary-level meeting. The last meeting was held in Thimphu in 2018, and is long overdue. To this end, we shall shortly be suggesting dates for the consideration of the Bhutanese side.

8. Meantime, I look forward to engaging in positive interactive discussions

Thank you!

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