Sinlung /
27 April 2012

'If Bangladesh Grows, Northeast India Would Develop Too'

Agartala, Apr 27 : India, Bangladesh and other countries in the region should strengthen existing rail, road and water linkages for their prosperity since "if Bangladesh grows, northeast India would also develop", said Bangladesh's envoy and other experts here.

Bangladesh High Commissioner Tariq Ahmad Karim stressed on development that would "make them truly land-linked with even more prosperous regions beyond".

Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) acting director general Sarvajit Chakravarti pointed out that "Dhaka and New Delhi have sorted out most outstanding and difficult issues", while a professor suggested that "economic cooperation between India and Bangladesh must go hand in hand with strong political support".

Addressing an international seminar here Thursday, Karim said: "Bangladesh has already agreed to allow India, Nepal and Bhutan to use Chittagong and Mongla international ports in that country as well with transit through its own country."

He said: "These ports would facilitate sea-going access for the land-locked BIMSTEC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Economic Cooperation) regions with Sri Lanka in the southeast and Thailand in the east, and beyond."

"Recent visit of India and Bangladesh leaders in each others' countries...demonstrate the growing interest of the northeast Indian states in Bangladesh as a development partner that would free them of the epithet `land-locked' and make them truly land-linked with even more prosperous regions beyond."

The two-day seminar on "Northeast India in Transition: Tripura - the Commerce and Connectivity Corridor between India and Bangladesh" was organised by Kolkata-based Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies.

Karim said that it is in everyone's larger interest that the agreement on Teesta river water sharing should be signed as quickly as possible and joint study of Manipur's Tipaimukh hydel power project should be speedily undertaken to clear the air of misconceptions.

"Bangladesh want to achieve a growth rate much much higher than today's little over six percent, as India wants to soar from its current national average of a little over seven percent. But India's national average is pulled down by the northeast India's low average of four percent. If Bangladesh grows, northeast India would also develop and if northeast grows, India's national average would also surge higher," Karim said.

ICWA's Chakravarti said: "As part of mutual cooperation, India gave $830 million to Bangladesh as grant to develop its infrastructure. It has used so far $83 million."

"Both Dhaka and New Delhi have sorted out most outstanding and difficult issues, some of their implementations have remained unfulfilled," Chakravarti said, adding that within the next few months active movements of goods via Bangladesh are expected.

"The Indian missions in Bangladesh have been issuing several thousand visas everyday to Bangladeshi citizens to visit India. We are constantly creating an atmosphere of trust," he stated.

Chakravarti said that to reinforce the business and economy between India and Bangladesh, New Delhi has removed all negative list of items allowing them into India without any restrictions.

"India and Bangladesh have taken positive steps to invest in each other countries. The investment would help for rapid development of all social parameters of the two neighbours."

India's northeastern states are surrounded by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and China and the only land route access to these states from within India is through Assam. But this route passes through hilly terrain with steep roads and multiple hairpin bends.

Agartala is 1,650 km from Kolkata and 2,637 km from New Delhi via Shillong and Guwahati whereas the distance between the Tripura capital and Kolkata via Bangladesh is just about 350 km.

Kolkata's Jadavpur University professor Om Prakash Mishra said that "most people in India and abroad have very little knowledge about the mountainous northeastern region though it has huge untapped natural as well as human resources".

"Economic cooperation between India and Bangladesh must go hand in hand with strong political support from the highest places of the two close neighbours," said Mishra.

Tripura (Central) University Vice-Chancellor Arunoday Saha said that the university would soon open a "Center for Bangladesh studies" in association with Dhaka University and Jamia Milia Islamia in New Delhi.

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