The government had no part in the recent interruption of entry and exit of regional tourists from Samdrupjongkhar, Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said during a press conference yesterday.
Lyonpo said that the Indian government has never recognised Samdrupjongkhar and Gelephu as an entry and exit point into the country. “They (GoI) have always identified only Phuentsholing as the entry and entry point,” he said.
He said that the Bhutanese considered Samdrupjongkhar and Gelephu as points of exit and entry because until recently the authorities in Assam had not implemented their government’s rule.
Lyonpo said that due to the ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) issue in Assam, local authorities have placed strict border regulations. These regulations should have been implemented from before, he added.
However, he said that the government had requested the Indian government to allow entry and exit for regional tourists till December. “Until then, we are not expecting any problems at the border. But we will have to hold a bilateral meeting to further discuss on the issue.”
Lyonpo said that this was the reason why the government wanted to open the entry and exit point at Gelephu and put in place all the necessary requirements including customs office.
Meanwhile, in one of the local Indian newspapers, it was reflected that the Bhutanese government had “officially decided” to freeze visas for international tourists wishing to exit through Samdrupjongkhar via land check post at Darranga.
A hotelier in Samdrupjongkhar said that the closure of the border gates for regional tourists would affect the business in the town. “With the opening of Gyalpoizhing-Nganglam highway, business in Samdrupjongkhar has already suffered a big blow,” he said.
Another businessman said that the decision to close the gate came as a surprise to them. “The government should have at least consulted with residents especially the business owners because it has a huge repercussion on people like us.”