Bhutan’s third gateway

The biggest lesson of Cyclone Amphan for Bhutan is the pressing need for a third international gateway for our internet connection from Bangladesh and via India to Bhutan.

The downing of internet lines of Bhutan Telecom and partly that of Tashi Cell even for a day or so had a major impact on Bhutan’s governance, economy and the lives of its citizens.

Internet connectivity is no longer a luxury or an ‘non-essential item,’ but it is something that no modern country can do without.

Therefore, it is inexplicable that a friendly neighbor like India has not cooperated yet in allowing this third gateway to happen, despite assurances given to three elected governments.

All three governments right from 2011 have been feverishly and repeatedly requesting India for this line precisely to avoid a situation that occurred in the last two days when Bhutan was transported back to a pre-internet age.

Apart from all three MoIC ministers the matter was also raised by the former and current Prime Ministers of Bhutan at the highest levels in India.

India has officially not said no, but the high and unreasonable price asked by its intermediary companies to access the third gateway from Bangladesh will be seen as an effective no in Bhutan.

India has stood by Bhutan during the COVID-19 crisis and ensured the flow of essential goods despite a record lockdown in India, and that is a real demonstration of friendship.

It is possible that until now Bhutan’s request for a third line never really hit home, and India may have hesitated due to the involvement of a third country.

However, the recent downing of internet cables shows that Bhutan’s request is genuine and the role of Bangladesh should not be an issue as all internet, in all parts of the world, originate from third or even fourth country destinations anyhow.

It is hoped now that New Delhi well see how important this line is for Bhutan both now and for the future.

Connectivity is productivity whether it is in a modern office or an underdeveloped village
Iqbal Qadir

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