India-B’desh seek to revive old transport links for trade, connectivity to NE
In an effort to boost connectivity and trade, India and Bangladesh are aiming to revitalize old transport links between the neighbours which became affected after both became different countries, officials said.
A two-day stakeholders’ meet got underway in Guwahati on Tuesday to find effective and concrete measures to ensure easy access and flow of goods and people through road, rail, waterways and air connectivity especially to the Northeast.
“Absence of seamless connectivity between Bangladesh and India and the countries of South Asia remains to be one of the key barriers for increasing trade,” Bangladesh commerce minister Tipu Munshi said at the inaugural session of the meet.
“Though a number of projects have been initiated, we are yet to reap full benefits of these initiatives. Considering these issues, the topics selected for this stakeholders meeting are immensely useful in addressing the real constraints,” he added.
Speakers at the meet highlighted how prior to India’s independence the Northeastern region used to have multimodal transportation networks (roadways, railways and riverine waterways) with and through the territories, which are now Bangladesh and Myanmar.
But after Independence, these networks were snapped due to a variety of reasons including security concerns leaving the Northeast land-locked, which in turn affected its development.
“This meet assumes great significance and is promising for our countries in advancing the mutually beneficial partnerships. It will ensure enhanced people to people relations and actualize on the tremendous potential of multimodal connectivity to reach greater heights in trade,” Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said.
India is the second largest trade partner of Bangladesh, after China. Bilateral trade between the two countries in 2018-19 was $8.9 billion.
In his address Asian Development Bank’s country director for India Kenichi Yokoyama pointed out that while India accounted for 16.4% of Bangaldesh’s imports, the share of the Northeastern region of that was only 1.2%.
“Northeastern region has the potential to become the hub of industries and services if connectivity between India and Bangladesh increases,” he said.