Residents rejoice as border gates of Samdrup Jongkhar, Sarpang & Samtse reopen

Border gate of Samdrup Jongkhar

The international border gates of Samdrup Jongkhar, Sarpang, and Samtse districts have been reopened this morning, heightening the excitement level of the residents there and others from across the borders.

As the morning sun rose and the clock struck 6, the border gate of Samdrup Jongkhar reopened, ending the two years and six-month-long freeze.

Sonam Jamtsho

Exactly 45 minutes later, 53-year-old, Sonam Jamtsho from Dewathang exited the gate to mend his shoes at the neighbouring Indian border town, famously known as Mela Bazaar.

Beaming with happiness, Sonam says the reopening of the border gate is a testimony of the close and extraordinary friendship between Bhutan and India.

He also foresees the local economy to perk up, which has witnessed a downturn due to the covid restrictions such as sealing the borders.

“Friendship between Bhutan and India has been good before and henceforth also it will grow stronger. With the reopening of the borders, I think both the countries will reap economic benefits,” shares Sonam in a delighted tone.

Since Samdrup Jongkhar is a commercial hub and economic lifeline to people in the east, the border reopening renewed their hopes of improving their economic conditions.

“Due to covid restrictions, we were not able to sell ginger and potatoes across the border. Now, this is no longer a problem,” says a farmer from Trashigang, Sonam Gyeltshen.

Indians from the neighbouring border towns are also in a celebratory mood. They have been waiting for this day since speculations started making rounds on social media over the past few months.

They felt surreal to have stepped their feet on the Bhutanese soil after a gap of nearly three years.

“I felt like I am in a dream and felt like new dawn has arrived. Both countries have a good relationship and it should continue. Bhutan has always been nice and helpful to us,” tells a Businessman from the Indian State of Assam, Mahesh Mohta.

Others are also expecting their businesses to do better now.

“I am so happy that I finally visited Bhutan after more than two and a half years. I have many friends here and my business is solely dependent on Bhutanese people. Now, I hope my business will pick up,” adds another businessman from the Indian State of Assam, Dulu Mazumdar.

With effect from today, vehicles travelling from Samdrup Jongkhar to other districts via the Indian highway no longer require an escort service.

The district’s other two points of entry at Jomotshangkha and Phuntshorabtenling also reopened today.

Over in Gelephu, the border gate at Datgari swung open at about 10 AM. Sarpang Dzongda and Bhutan- India Friendship Association welcomed a group of Indian guests from the other side of the border.

Welcoming them, Dzongda Lobzang Dorji thanked the Indian counterparts for the smooth transportation of import and export goods during the border closure period.

“From today, the border gate is open. However, we have changed some rules for entry. You are all welcome but have to adhere to some new rules like requiring a voter card.”

Indian visitors also rejoiced over the reopening of the border gate.

“Our Bhutanese brothers and sisters couldn’t visit our Datgari market over the past two years, which severely affected our business. As the border gate reopens, we are happy that we will regain our Bhutanese customers,” feels Kishan Narjary, a resident from Datgari in the Indian State of Assam.

Henceforth, visitors from bordering districts in India will have to produce their identity or voter cards at the foreign visitor counter near the border gate.

For Bhutanese people, they will have to do online registration while exiting or entering the gate.

Samtse District also reopened all its five land borders at Samtse, Gomtu and Pugli,

Yangphelthang and Jitti this morning. Other points of entry at Nganglam and Lhamoi-Dzingkha were also reopened.

Kinley Wangchuk/Karma Wangdi/Passang Dorji

Edited by Pema Lhaden

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