Bhutan Meghalaya Exchange Program: 2023

Date:   Wed Nov 22, 2023 - Sat Nov 25, 2023 , Contact:   comms@asianconfluence.org
Location:   Shillong , Hosts:   Asian Confluence

India and Bhutan share a close and unique relationship characterized by deep historical, cultural, and economic ties. The two countries have maintained strong bilateral relations based on mutual trust and cooperation.

 

In November 2023, during his visit to India, His Majesty, The King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, and the Prime Minister of India held discussions on a gamut of bilateral and regional cooperation issues such as trade, technology, cross-border connectivity, mutual investments, education and people to people connections. The leaders discussed the need to explore new avenues for expanding economic and trade ties between the two countries with Indian business leaders. The visit of His Majesty to Assam was an indication of the importance being given to connectivity and economic ties with the North east region of India. India and Bhutan agreed to discuss new routes of regional connectivity, and upgrade border and immigration posts to support plans for a smart city at Gelephu on the border between Bhutan and Assam. In addition to a decision to go ahead with the final survey for the 58 km cross-border rail link between Gelephu and Kokrajhar in Assam to be built by India, the two sides agreed to explore a second rail link for about 18 km between Samtse in Bhutan and Banarhat in West Bengal tea gardens area. India also agreed to allowing Bhutanese trade items to be carried further on from Haldibari in West Bengal to Chilahati in Bangladesh. The rail connectivity could in the future assist air connectivity for Indians in the northeast as well, as Bhutan plans to build an international airport at Gelephu as part of the larger Sarpang district Special Economic Zone, Northeast India (NER) and Bhutan face several common challenges due to their geographical proximity and shared socio-economic factors. Both are known for their unique heritage, mountainous terrain, agrarian society, and diverse ethnic groups. Similarly, both face common challenges such as the lack of robust transport connectivity, the necessity to safeguard rich bio-diversity and fragile ecosystems, waste management and urban development issues, and being prone to natural disasters such as floods, landslides, and earthquakes. With the push for increased connectivity and trade, sharings on these issues will be beneficial. 

 

The hill state of Meghalaya in Northeast India occupies a unique location in the combined BBIN (Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, and Nepal) sub-region due to its unique location as a gateway state to Bangladesh, close proximity to Assam, which shares a border with Bhutan, unique biodiversity dictated by a unique mountain and plains topology, ample natural resources, vibrant human resource potential, and educational institutions.  Sharing of best practices, common challenges, and enhanced collaboration between Bhutan and Meghalaya can mutually benefit the region. Following are a few potential areas of benefit:

 

Connectivity and Trade:  Through initiatives underway in connecting NER with Bhutan , strengthening bilateral trade and forging inclusive benefits towards the ongoing efforts in building regional production value chains in the Bay of Bengal Region can boost prosperity.  During His Majesty’s recent visit to India, various aspects related to developing connectivity between Northeast India and Bhutan were agreed upon, such as developing cross-border rail and road connectivity and immigration check posts. Connectivity between North east India to Bangladesh and Bay of Bengal is also in progress. For example,  Bangladesh has given both India and Bhutan access to Chattogram and Mongla ports for transit and trans-shipment of cargo vessels. Given its strategic location, the north eastern states and Meghalaya can play an important role in improved connectivity between Bhutan and India and extending to the Bay of Bengal region.

 

Urban Development and Waste Management: Growing urbanisation, increased tourism,

and changing consumption habits have forced the ecologically sensitive Meghalaya to prioritize waste management and urban development. Cooperation with Bhutan which also faces similar challenges, can go a long way in addressing such concerns.

 

Natural Resource Managemet: Bhutan is internationally recognized for its commitment to environmental conservation and sustainable development. Meghalaya, known for its rich biodiversity and natural resources, can benefit from Bhutan’s expertise in sustainable practices, conservation initiatives, and eco-tourism development.

 

More People to people contact through tourism and cultural exchanges: Bhutan is a popular tourist destination known for its unique culture, beautiful landscapes, Buddhist heritage, and traditional architecture. Cooperation between Bhutan and Meghalaya can facilitate tourism exchanges, increasing tourist inflow in Meghalaya, especially under the themes of eco-tourism and wellness tourism.

 

In this regard, Asian Confluence, in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism, Government of Meghalaya, and Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS), Thimpu and supported by the India Bhutan Foundation wishes to convert opportunities into collaborations by hosting an exchange program with a delegation of policymakers and experts from Bhutan visiting Meghalaya

 

The following key activities are planned:

1.     A deep dive into the sharing of experiences between Meghalaya and Bhutan

2.     Field Visits to Meghalaya by Delegation from Bhutan

                                          

Inaugural Session

22nd November, 2023

 

India and Bhutan in the BBIN Region: New Horizons Sharings with Meghalaya

 

·       4:30-5:15 PM: Registration and Welcome:

·       5:20 PM: Arrival of Hon’ble CM

5:30 PM: Welcome Address- Shri Sabyasachi Dutta, Executive Director, Asian Confluence

5:35 PM: Opening Address: Shri Cyril Darlong Diengdoh, I.A.S, Secretary, Govt of Meghalaya

 

Special Address - H.E. Mr. Jigme Thinlye Namgyal, Consul General of Bhutan in Guwahati,

                              Royal Bhutanese Consulate General.

 

Special Remarks-Shri Anurag Srivastava, Joint Secretary North, Ministry of External

                               Affairs (Virtual)

 

Special Address-Dr Ravi Kota, IAS, Additional Chief Secretary, Government of

                               Assam (Virtual)  

 

Special Address-Shri Paul Lyngdoh, Hon’ble Minister of Tourism, Government of

                             Meghalaya

 

Inaugural Address - Shri Conrad K Sangma, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Meghalaya

 

·       Group Photo

 

·       6:30 PM: High Tea

·       7:00-8:00 PM: Special Plenary Panel: India Bhutan Economic Connectivity from the

North East: New Frontiers

 

Moderator: Amb. Veena Sikri, Former, Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh

                     Convenor, South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN)

 

Speakers: Dr. Rajan Ratna, Deputy Head UNESCAP

                  Dr. Prabir De, Professor, RIS, New Delhi

                  Ms. Kencho Dema, Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS)                    

 

·       08:00 PM: Dinner

 

DAY 2: 23rd Nov, 2023

 

Field Visits: Theme: Payment for Ecosystem, Cultural Tourism

·      Visit to Mawphlang : Sacred Groves and Kyiem IVCS

·      Attending Seng Kut Snem festival

 

 

DAY 3: 24th Nov, 2023

09:30-11:00

Round Table Session 1: Theme: Urban Development

Presentation by Shri Aiban Mawkroh, Architect, Shillong

Presentation by Bhutan Delegation

 

 Moderated roundtable Discussion

 

TEA and NETWORKING BREAK

11:30 13:00

Round Table Session 2: Theme: Climate Change and Natural Resource Management

 

Presentation by Shri Albert Chiang, OSD, Meghalaya Climate Change Center

Presentation by Bhutan Delegation

 Moderated roundtable Discussion

 

Interaction at ADC

 

DAY 4: 25th Nov 2023

Field Visit:

·      Visit to Kongthong Village

·      Visit to Sohra

De-Brief Session over Dinner: Asian Confluence Centre

Check out the inagural day on Youtube LINK

 

 

Want to get in touch with us? Write to us at comms@asianconfluence.org



India Bhutan Exchange : 2023