External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee revealed his grand plans for a unified Asia and greater connectivity between nations in the Indian subcontinent. If his ideas are turned into reality, a rail track could soon connect Kolkata to Hanoi.
While his vision extended from Afghanistan in the North West to Vietnam in South East Asia, Mukherjee expressed his government’s keenness to restore old road, rail and river routes between India and Bangladesh.
“We are planning to send proposals to international finance agencies likes the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank with details of the rail route between Kolkata and Hanoi in Vietnam. We made a good start with the Kolkata-Dhaka train service,” he said.
The foreign minister told a gathering of Indian and Bangladeshi journalists here that he was also eager to restart old rail routes from Kolkata to Agartala and the river link to Guwahati — both via Bangladesh.
“There is an old road linking India and Myanmar through Chittagong (in Bangladesh). What is stopping us from restoring this? There was also a river route between Kolkata and Guwahati via Bangladesh, which should be restored,” he pointed out.
An introspective Mukherjee further said that the government was also planning to carve a route to the North-Eastern states via Myanmar and Bangladesh.
“This is possible if Bangladesh opens up its road and river routes to facilitate better links,” he said.
He added that India also had plans to build a 160-km road link with Myanmar and develop a port in that country for better ties and easier passage of goods to states like Nagaland and Mizoram.
An unfulfilled promise caused Mukherjee to go red in the face when some Bangladesh journalists confronted him an uncomfortable question.
During a visit to the neighbouring nation, which was recently hit by the devastating Cyclone Sidr, Mukherjee had promised that India would send Bangladesh 5 lakh tonnes of rice. In reality, only 1 lakh tonnes reached Bangladesh.