External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Monday outlined two cross-border connectivity initiatives in South Asia, including a rail link between Bhutan and Assam and a coastal shipping agreement with Myanmar that could boost trade and people to people ties between Indian states and neighbouring countries.
He pointed out that Bhutan is keen on opening up more places for tourists and that the rail link was advantageous for Assam as well. “We are in talks on the rail link between Bhutan and Assam. Bhutan is very keen to open more points for tourists and it is very good for Assam,” Jaishankar told journalists here.
This is the first-ever railway connection between India and Bhutan and is expected to be completed by 2026. The Indian government will fund the 57-km railway link.
Bhutan’s Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji said in April this year that the Bhutan government will first work on this project and then look at connecting other regions like Samtse, Phuentsholing, Nganglam, and Samdrupjongkhar.
Jaishankar also said that the government is looking to conclude the coastal shipping agreement with Myanmar this year that connects states like Andhra Pradesh with the neighbouring country. He, however, added that the Myanmar Trilateral highway is a big challenge due to the law and order situation in the country.
“The border situation with Myanmar is challenging. Sittwe Port is operational, and we are hopeful to conclude the coastal shipping agreement this year. The Myanmar Trilateral highway is a big challenge due to the law and order situation. We are engaging with Myanmar authorities to meet the challenges,” he said.
The Myanmar Trilateral highway is an initiative pertaining to connectivity with India, Thailand and Myanmar.