Countries in South Asia share a distinctive relationship rooted in shared heritage, civilization, culture and extensive people-to-people relations. And this holds true for relations between India and its Himalayan neighbours – Nepal and Bhutan. India shares its border with both Nepal and Bhutan. The five Indian states of Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand share 1850 km. long border with Nepal while the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Sikkim share 699 km long border with Bhutan. There are two key treaties between India and Nepal and India and Bhutan respectively-the 1950 India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship and the 1949 Treaty of Friendship with Bhutan which form the foundation of bilateral ties.
Politically, India’s ties with both Nepal and Bhutan have an important strategic significance as both these countries form a buffer zone between China and India. This has impacted bilateral ties in different ways over the years although largely relations have remained conducive. Besides the economic relations, populations across the border of India-Nepal are closely linked with cultural and social ties, especially in their border areas. So the open border gives the opportunity for people to live their social life unrestricted by the frontier. India’s open borders with its Himalyan neighbours are important as Nepal and Bhutan are landlocked without access to the seas.. This land-locked status has great impact on their economy, as these two states are dependent on their neighbours for import and export of goods through the international waters.
In terms of economic relations, India continues to be a major trading partner of Nepal. Nearly 60% of Nepal’s foreign trade is with India and 48% of its FDI comes from India. Around 40% of Nepal’s tourists come from India. India is the largest trading partner of Bhutan as well and both countries share a free-trade agreement. Bilateral trade between the two countries reached INR 7965 crore in 2014. However, there is a lot of room for improving India’s trade ties with both Nepal and Bhutan. In this regard the recently signed BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement promises a lot of scope for enhancing economic relations. For the progress and expansion of economic links, it is necessary to develop the requisite hard and soft infrastructure. More so, there is vast potential for cooperation between India and the Himalyan states in the field of water resources.
Against this backdrop, the workshop aims to assess different facets of India-Nepal and India-Bhutan bilateral cooperation comprising issues related to trade-transit, customs and joint border management, legal framework of existing bilateral agreements and energy cooperation.
The workshop will be divided into three business sessions: