Assam wants reopening of old railway links with Bangladesh
Assam government discusses reopening of traditional railway links to Bangladesh which will reopen the pre-partition railway links from Chittagong to Makum, Cox Bazar to Ledo and third line between Bangladesh via Golakganj till Moirabari.
Assam industry ministry Chandra Mohan Patwary on Wednesday said, “While work for Agartala-Akhaura Railway Link (Bangladesh) has started, we have discussed with MEA and NITI Aayog for restoration of three railway links from Assam to Bangladesh.” To provide impetus to India-Bangladesh trade, stakeholders meet will be held on October 22 and 23 in Guwahati. The Bangladesh delegation with over 90 members will be led by Tipu Munshi, Minister of Commerce, Government of Bangladesh and 70 officials from Bangladesh. Ministers from Government of India along with top officials of Ministry of Commerce, External Affairs, Road Transport and Shipping are likely to attend this meet.
Patwary said that North Eastern Region of India had been suffering an unfortunate geographical isolation and perceived psychological alienation from the rest of the country as a consequence of partition and the irrational drawing of the Radcliffe Line at the time of independence in 1947. But restoring the links of the region with and through the ASEAN and BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal) countries shall enable it to overcome from being land-locked and insularity. Upgrading the decades old Look East Policy into the more proactive Act East Policy in 2014 provides the region with a unique opportunity to reinvent itself.
The minister said that the meet will generate awareness and discuss opportunities in the backdrop of BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement and access of Chittagong and Mongla Ports to Vessels from North East India. “North East India is abundant in natural resources like Oil, Coal, Limestone, Bamboo, Tea, Citrus Fruits, Banana, Spices and Medicinal Plants. Historically, we have shared the natural resources with our neighboring countries through surface routes. Improved infrastructure in terms of roads, bridges and railways can boost the trade and commerce of the natural resources between India and Bangladesh.”
In 2018-19, the bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh (as per the Ministry of Commerce figures) reached an all-time high of US$ 10.2 billion. However, the trade between the North Eastern Region and Bangladesh through Land Custom Stations stood at only US$ 74 million in 2018-19 which is a mere 0.72% of the total trade between India and Bangladesh.
State government stated but considering the 1741 Km long land border which the North Eastern region shares with Bangladesh, there are tremendous potentiality for the growth of Northeast India-Bangladesh cross border trade through the surface route.
Assam Commissioner, Industries and Commerce, Dr KK Dwivedi said, “Trade through land customs stations of the region is not very encouraging, the meet will deliberate in identifying the bottlenecks which is impeding the growth of robust trade.”
Patwary said that government is setting up of a multi-modal transshipment hub at Jogighopa in Assam for movement of cargo to Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Bhutan. Goods from Bhutan and the North-East can take the river route to Bangladesh and vice-versa through Jogighopa. The Munshiganj River terminal in Bangladesh will be used as a customs station to handle third-party export/import cargo via the port of Kolkata in India. Construction work in this Rs 600 Crore project will start soon.