Gangtok: Sikkim chief minister Prem Singh Golay reached Chewabhanjyang in Geyzing district with the intent of opening a multi-trade corridor at the India-Nepal border. He is the first CM from the state to reach Chewabhanjyang, situated at an elevation of 10,299 feet.

On Tuesday, Golay inaugurated a newly constructed guest house located at the border area. The new guest house lies adjacent to an existing tourism guest house which houses Sikkim Armed Police. While the Indian side of the border houses Sahastra Seema Bal jawans of the Indian army, the other side houses the Nepal army.

The Chewabhanjyang-Uttarey road, started in 2016 by the state’s Roads and Bridges Department, is the first road connectivity to the India-Nepal border. It is estimated to be 12-16 kms from Uttarey. Nepal has also connected with Chewabhanjyang from their end of the border with Pushpalal Mid Hills Highway.

Keeping an eye on the connectivity between India and Nepal, Golay arrived at Chewabhanjyang to introduce a multi-trade corridor.

He said, “The open border needs to be a commercial border, an integrated border which benefits people from both India and Nepal. There are sectors such as business, education, health, tourism and even cultural exchanges between two countries.”

He also said that Sikkim would welcome people from eastern Nepal if they required health services, for example, and presented the state as quicker to arrive at in comparison to Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital. “When they come to Sikkim, it will take an hour’s time, which will be very easy for the people there,” he said.

Golay stressed that a trade corridor at the India-Nepal border seems inevitable, saying that he has discussed the corridor with Indian PM Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah on multiple occasions. Elaborating about the probability of the trade corridor, he said, “There have been discussions between the Indian and the Nepal government about the possible corridor, hence even Nepal has to agree and grant permission for a trade route with India.”

On the need for better road connectivity between Uttarey the last village in West Sikkim with Chewabhanjyang, the Sikkim CM shared, “The work on connectivity is underway.”

Golay shared that the central government entrusted the state’s Roads and Bridges Department with the responsibility of surveying the road to NHIDCL, with considerations for a double lane road.

He added, “Currently only a limited people are allowed through the border as it not completely open without a proper road and people hike to cross the border. If the corridor opens, then it will be a great opportunity for cultural exchange between the two countries.”

Emphasising the advantages of the road, the chief minister also said that it will benefit the army near the border region. “If a Jawan falls sick here at Chewabhanjyang, he needs to be carried on the back by another jawan for 5 hours of downhill hike before reaching the nearest primary health center. After the road construction, there is some relief for them,” he said.

Golay also took stock of the guest house that houses the Sikkim Armed Police and expressed his plan to develop the infrastructure in order to facilitate the security forces.

Professor Mahendra P Lama, economic advisor to the CM, spoke about the trade potential of the India-Nepal border. He asserted, “With the trade route, around 17-18 percent of Nepal’s geography and around 45 lakh people in eastern Nepal, particularly in Province One of Nepal will benefit from the trade.”

Stressing on PM Modi’s ‘neighbourhood first’ foreign policy, Lama mentioned that just as the Siliguri to Jhapa petrol line was agreed upon recently between the two countries, the same level of connectivity can reach Chewabhanjyang.

He further said that as Nepal supplies around 680 MW electricity from Eastern Nepal to Bangladesh, Sikkim can also benefit if the transmission lines were to pass through Sikkim.

Explaining that Chewabhanjyang is already a famous trekking route connecting Darjeeling’s Sandakphu with Mt. Kanchendzonga base camp in Goechela in North-west Sikkim, Lama said it will benefit from the trade corridor. A climate study center at Chewabhanjyang was also one of the many plans. He further stressed the corridor’s potential to promote religious tourism between the two countries.

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Negating any potential disadvantage of the trade corridor, Lama said that the trade route will not violate neither national security nor bilateral relations with Nepal.

He said, “When the trade route at Nathula opened in 2008, China was largely considered an enemy nation. Despite that, we have the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra in existence from Sikkim’s Nathula pass.”

Citing the Indo Nepal treaty of 1850, Lama talked about the possibility of “custom charges in trade between India and Nepal through an integrated checkpost similar to Nathula”.

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