India-Bhutan Bilateral Ties Strengthened Through Rail Link Agreement

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent 2-day state visit to Bhutan, PM Modi and his Bhutanese counterpart, Tshering Tobgay, in Thimphu solidified their bilateral ties through the exchange of multiple Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs). The two nations penned several agreements spanning across energy, trade, digital connectivity, space, and agriculture.

Both nations finalized an MoU concerning the establishment of rail links, underscoring their commitment to enhancing connectivity. The MoU provides for the establishment of two proposed rail links between India and Bhutan, including the Kokrajhar-Gelephu rail link and the Banarhat-Samtse rail link, and their implementation modalities, it said.

This is not the only cross-border rail link that India has developed with its neighbouring countries. Apart from Bhutan, countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka also enjoy rail connections that facilitate passenger and freight services, contributing to regional connectivity and trade.

India-Bangladesh: Operational rail links exist between India and Bangladesh at various crossing points like Gede-Darshana, Petrapole-Benapole, and others, facilitating passenger and freight services.

India-Myanmar: The Moreh-Tamu route is considered part of the trans-Asian rail connectivity, with India currently building the Jiribam-Imphal-Moreh railway line.

India-Nepal: The Jaynagar-Bardibas railway line is semi-operational, with plans for extensions and additional routes like Raxaul-Kathmandu and Nautanwa-Bhairhawa.

India-Pakistan: Two rail routes exist between India and Pakistan, although passenger train services are currently inactive.

India-Sri Lanka: The historic Boat Mail passenger train service between India and Sri Lanka currently runs till Rameswaram in India.

In addition to this, India is actively involved in regional infrastructure projects that aim to enhance connectivity with countries in West Asia, Europe, and Africa. Projects like the joint railway network in West Asia and the proposed corridor linking India, the Middle East, and Europe via rail and waterways demonstrate India’s commitment to expanding its rail links internationally.

It is believed that the development of these rail links can help boost bilateral trade ties between the two nations by improving transportation efficiency, reducing costs, and increasing connectivity.

For many years now, the Indian Railways has been a leading avenue for offering the government’s assistance to its strategic partners. The world’s fourth-largest rail operator, the Indian Railways, has been quietly engaged in providing financial aid and technical assistance while constructing railway infrastructure in developing countries.

By investing in rail infrastructure, countries can facilitate the movement of goods, services, and investments, leading to a boost in bilateral trade. Rail links provide a reliable means of transporting goods, ensuring timely delivery, and reducing transportation costs.

Along with enhancing accessibility to new markets and fostering market expansion by connecting countries through well-established transportation networks, the rail links can strengthen diplomatic ties and mutual respect between nations. As goods and ideas flow along these routes, they bring with them the exchange of customs, traditions, and knowledge, enriching societies and fostering understanding. Rail links not only facilitate trade but also promote cultural interaction, which can further enhance bilateral relationships.

In conclusion, the development of rail links between two nations plays a crucial role in enhancing bilateral trade ties by improving transportation efficiency, reducing costs, increasing market accessibility, fostering cultural exchange, and creating economic opportunities through infrastructure development. And India is actively involved in maintaining operational rail links with neighboring countries and is actively engaged in projects to enhance regional connectivity, foster trade, and foster economic cooperation through its railway network.

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