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Dhaka expert moots shorter Bangladesh-India link to Asian highway

world Updated: Aug 08, 2009 19:15 IST

A road that saves a 400-km detour between Sylhet in Bangladesh and Imphal in India has been mooted as a link to the Asian Highway Network by a Dhaka expert.

M Rahmatullah, a noted transport expert and former director (transport) of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said at a discussion that it was time for "a political decision" on the subject that delayed Bangladesh's joining the international project, the Star Online reported on Saturday.

Apart from that, Bangladesh should also make a political move, together with Thailand and Kunming province of China, to convince Myanmar to establish a route for connection with the network, said Rahmatullah.

He was supported by Rehman Sobhan, chairman of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, who said that once commissioned, the Asian Highway Network will connect Asia with Europe and South Asia with Southeast Asia with land link.

Bangladesh should opt for the Austagram route to be connected with the proposed Asian Highway Network, he said, opposing the Tamabil route that Bangladesh had earlier mooted.

"Austagram is the most suitable route which saves 400 km of detour between Sylhet and Imphal in India. It is the shortest route compared to the Tamabil route and passes through level terrain, he said.

"Bangladesh should make a move to convince India to agree on the Austagram route, as it is convenient for India as well," he said.

The proposed Austagram route of the Asian Highway Network runs from Sylhet and Austagram in Bangladesh through Karimganj, Shibchar and Imphal in India.

The Tamabil route, on the other hand, is either Tamabil-Dhaka-Benapole or Tamabil-Dhaka-Banglabandha, the experts said, maintaining that the Austagram route was better.

The Tamabil route was insisted upon by the government of Begum Khaldea Zia (2001-06) on the logic that India should not gain any transit access to its isolated northeastern region as a result of the Asian Highway Network.

The present government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is in the process of changing that line and approaching the UN ESCAP afresh.