The physical proximity in terms of seaports, inland ports and growth centres is relatively favourable between NEI and Bangladesh. “Connectivity between South Asia and South East Asia would create a regional market of 2.3 billion people,” said the policy researcher.

Published in The Financial Express on Saturday, 14 November 2015.

Bus, cargo services soon with Nepal, Bhutan
Growth zone binding with Indias NE suggested

FE Report

Bangladesh will soon drive passenger and cargo vehicles to Bhutan and Nepal under a broader sub-regional connectivity among the neighbouring South Asian countries that also include India.

“The new passenger bus and cargo services will be operational soon with a view to connecting Bangladesh and India with Nepal and Bhutan under the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement,” said Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali on Friday.

He was addressing the inaugural session of a seminar on ‘Bangladesh and India’s northeast: Exploring opportunities and mutual interests” organised by the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh (ASB) at its auditorium.

The foreign minister said several development initiatives taken during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit were expected to improve regional connectivity, especially Indian Northeast’s access to the mainland.

Terming the move a ‘game changer’ in this sub-region, he said all these initiatives would have a huge impact on increasing people-to-people contact as well as cross-border business activities.

The foreign minister mentioned that the Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati and Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala bus services had already been flagged off, as part of a greater agenda of opening up.

“We are looking at direct air connectivity between Dhaka and Guwahati (Assam),” said the minister.

Bangladesh is increasing its diplomatic and consular presence in the Northeast of India to step up engagements in different sectors.

Dhaka will soon have a Deputy High Commission in the Assamese capital, Guwahati. The Agartala Visa Office, the minister said, had also been upgraded to Assistant High Commission.

According to Mr Mahmood, the North-East Indian (NEI) region holds huge economic potential of natural resources which still remains untapped.

“Due to our geographical contiguity, we are in the best position to tap those resources. Their raw materials can be imported to Bangladesh for value addition and re-exported to India or elsewhere,” the foreign minister said to explain the blueprint on expansion of economic horizons.

He pointed out that Bangladesh has already contributed to the northeast’s power-sector development by allowing transportation of ‘Over Dimensional Cargo’ for Tripura’s Palatana Power Plant across its territory.

Work on grid connection between Tripura and Comilla to bring 100mw electricity is in progress.

Bangladesh has also allowed transportation of food-grains to Tripura in the same manner. “We are also exploring joint-venture investments in hydroelectric projects and the possibility of power import/exchange with the northeast,” he told the meet, as the region has “enormous” hydroelectric potential.

“We are opening new rail and road links as well as Land Customs Stations/Land Ports with the Northeast and reviving old ones. We are revamping trade infrastructures to connect those border points.”

A good number of speakers, especially scholars, academics and experts, from both India and Bangladesh, attended the first-day seminar of the 2-day programme discussing a wide range of bilateral issues between Bangladesh and India-some of those having common historical import.

The topics of talk included colonial and post-colonial political and ethnical conflicts, regional cooperation and challenges for Bangladesh-India relations.

The inaugural function was also addressed, among others, by ASB president Prof. Amirul Islam Chowdhury, Vice President Prof. Akmal Hossain, and general secretary Prof. Ahmed A. Jamal.

In the first technical session Dr. Amena Nohsin and Dr. Ashfaque Hossain of Dhaka University, Dr. Sharif Uddin Ahmed of North South University and Dr. Anindita Ghosal of Rishi Bankim Chandra College, Kolkata, presented their papers on various political and historical as well as homeland partition and refugee issues.

In the second session on Trade, Investment and Tourism, CPD Additional Research Director Dr. KG Moazzem, Prof. KN Jene of Tripura University, and Dr Syed Rashidul Hassan of DU presented their papers on Development of a growth zone with NEI and Beyond, Economic development in India and Bangladesh and Tourism respectively.

BIDS Director-General Dr KAS Murshid presided over the second session.

Dr Moazzem in his paper stressed the need for further integration of South Asian economies with establishment of a “growth zone” between Bangladesh and NEI with options for inclusion of more Southeast Asian and East Asian countries.

The physical proximity in terms of seaports, inland ports and growth centres is relatively favourable between NEI and Bangladesh. “Connectivity between South Asia and South East Asia would create a regional market of 2.3 billion people,” said the policy researcher.

The NEI is rich in mineral and agricultural products which are exported abroad and Bangladesh has a relatively large manufacturing base which could get a market of NEI’s products, said Mr Moazzem.

He noted that in comparison to the performance of India’s other estates in the field of tourism, the seven sisters were lagging far behind. Despite geographical proximity, hardly found anyone interested to visit the NEI mainly due to Indian government’s policy of controlling the region.

The CPD researcher called for introducing diversification in Bangladesh tourism like medical, educational, shopping, religious, recreational and business tourism.




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