Routes via Myanmar, Bangladesh could transform Asia: EAM

India can overcome geography and rewrite history “if only we get the policies and the economics right”, foreign minister S Jaishankar said, highlighting how land and sea connectivity through Myanmar and Bangladesh respectively on a commercial scale could open up “a world all the way to Vietnam and Philippines, from Haiphong to Hazira, and Manila to Mundra”.

If this works out, it would “create an east-west lateral with sweeping benefits for the continent”, Jaishankar said at the Nadi 3 Asian Confluence River Conclave. “This will not only build on the partnerships we have with Asean countries and Japan, but make a difference to the IndoPacific Economic Framework. ”

At the Nadi 3 Asian Confluence River Conclave, foreign minister S Jaishankar said starting point would be enhancing connectivity with Bangladesh, especially with the neighbouring northeast, and the restoration of six historical cross-border rail links, dormant since 1965. “Once operational, the Shahabazpur (Bangladesh) to Mahishasan (Assam) link will be extended within Bangladesh and connected to the Kuluara-Shahbazpur rail line that is currently being modernised.”

Inaugurated in December 2020, the Chilahati-Haldibari (West Bengal) line will further enhance Assam’s connectivity to Bangladesh through New Jalpaiguri, including passenger traffic, foreign minister said.

A rail link between Akhaura (Bangladesh) to Agartala (Tripura) is being developed, which Jaishankar said had already resulted in increased trade between the two countries of India and Bangladesh.

The minister pinned high hopes on negotiations to operationalise the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement to ensure seamless vehicular movement between the neighbours. “Inside Bangladesh, India is collaborating on a series of road projects, including improving the Ashuganj River Port-Akhaura Land Port Road under a line of credit worth more than $400 million. A road project connecting Baruerhat to Ramgarh on the India-Bangladesh border in Tripura is also being implemented under another an LoC of $80.06 million,” he said.

Jaishankar said that the cross-border geography was being synergised by agreements on movement of goods from Indian ports.

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