M A I N   N E W S

MoUs with Bhutan on rail links, power projects
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 25
The all-weather Indo-Bhutan relationship was cemented further today when New Delhi committed itself to setting up the land-locked kingdom’s first-ever railway infrastructure.

The decision to extend the Indian Railway network to the border areas in Bhutan is in pursuance of the Manmohan Singh government’s new foreign policy initiative: to develop infrastructure of borders which India shares with other countries.

As part of the government policy, the North-East will get the top priority.

As part of this strategy of upgrading border infrastructure and connectivity with Bhutan, India today agreed to conduct feasibility studies for the extension of Indian railways network from the West Bengal and Assam to the nearest border towns in Bhutan.

Three memorandum of understanding (MOUs) were signed between India and Bhutan today in presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who is on a four-day visit to India.

The following three MoUs were signed between the two countries: An MoU on cooperation in the field of agriculture and allied sectors was signed between Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Bhutanese Foreign Minister Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk.

The MoU on preparation of detailed project reports for the Punatsangchhu (Stage II) and Mangdechhu hydro-electric projects in Bhutan was signed between Power Minister P.M. Sayeed and Mr Wangchuck.

A pact for establishment of rail links between the bordering towns of India and Bhutan was signed between Minister of State for Railways Naranbhai J. Rathwa and Mr Wangchuck.

The most important MoU relates to the Railways which will see trains running in Bhutan for the first time in a few years from now. A feasibility study will be undertaken to examine the following rail links:

Hasimara (West Bengal)—Phuentsholing (Approx 18 km) and bifurcation to Pasakha;

Kokrajhar (Assam) — Gelephu (Approx 70 km);

Pathsala (Assam) — Nanglam (Approx. 40 km);

Rangia (Assam) — Samdrupjongkhar via Darranga (Approx. 60 km);

Banarhat (West Bengal) — Samtse (Approx 16 km).

The study will be conducted by RITES and will be financed by the Government of India on grant basis. It is expected to be completed within a year.

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