India, Bhutan can forge trade ties during Modi visit: CII

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Pointing out that Bhutan can be a land of big opportunities for Indian industry, CII today said the two neighbours can forge economic cooperation in areas like hydropower, tourism, education and agro processing during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit beginning Sunday.

"CII is confident that the India–Bhutan bilateral trade will double in next five years and there will quantum jump in Indian investment in different sectors".

"The potential sectors of economic cooperation between India and Bhutan include hydropower, agro processing, education, tourism, horticulture, ICT and ICT enabled services and environment management," the industry chamber said.

Modi will embark on his maiden overseas trip to the tiny Buddhist kingdom this Sunday. During the two-day visit, the Indian Prime Minister will meet his Bhutanese counterpart Tshering Tobgay and King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

Bilateral trade relations between India and Bhutan have grown significantly from the level of $ 141.86 million in 2003-04 to $ 397.22 million in 2012-13. While India's exports to Bhutan in 2012-13 were $ 233.22 million, the imports were valued at $ 164 million.

Ongoing cooperation between India and Bhutan in the hydropower sector is covered under the 2006 agreement on cooperation in hydropower between the two countries and the protocol to the 2006 agreement signed in March, 2009 thereof.

Under the protocol, Government of India has agreed to develop 10,000 MW of hydropower in Bhutan for export of surplus power to India by 2020.

In agro processing, the Indian dairy industry can provide technical assistance and business knowledge to Bhutan's dairy industry for markets in Bhutan and North East India. To attract investors to Bhutan, land, power and transport arrangements need to be made, suggested CII.

Bhutan offers opportunities in education such as higher secondary schools, vocational training institutes and training of teachers. Long distance education channel or franchise outlets could be considered, CII said, adding that Bhutan can also tie up with Indian universities to provide quality education through virtual classrooms.

To increase inflow of Indian tourists to Bhutan, CII suggested that a joint tourism package between India and Bhutan can be developed around the theme of nature/culture tourism. Also, there is huge scope for training and skill development in the tourism sector, it said.

Noting that software and BPO industry are in a nascent stage in Bhutan, the chamber said India can assist in technical guidance in areas like telecom infrastructure and broadband internet backbone, network management, marketing and branding and training of manpower.

The two countries can bolster horticulture, medicinal plantation and environment management c be other areas of economic cooperation, CII said.

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