Former Indian Ambassador to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das has said the raft of connectivity projects that India has undertaken with Bangladesh and ASEAN countries opens up the possibility of linking eastern India with Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and boost the economy of eastern states of India.
She said that work on international road, rail and waterway connectivity projects is moving at a fast pace and within the next three-four years, when these are completed, trade in the region can be expected to boom, reports Indian Express.
"After some initial hiccups, work on the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway is underway. A study has shown that the planned eastward extension of the road to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam will bring overall development to the entire region. This project, as part of Act East policy, will give a big boost to the economy of Northeast and West Bengal, including GDP growth, employment generation and increase in per capita income," the former Indian diplomat told PTI.
Bangladesh has expressed interest to join the 1,360-km-long highway project that will connect Mae Sot in Thailand with Moreh in India via Myanmar.
On India-Bangladesh bilateral trade through waterways, the former ambassador said, "India will be able to use Mongla and Chittagong ports in Bangladesh for movement of goods to and from Northeast. We are also trying to get Bangladesh to channelise some of its exports through Indian ports instead of going through Malaysia or Singapore."
She said that Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is focused on restoring railway links that had existed with India before the 1965 India-Pakistan War, and also building newer connectivity projects.
Riva Ganguly Das, who was the Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh from 1 March 2019 to 12 August 2020, said that the potential of goods trains in bilateral trade was realised during the Covid-19 outbreak.
"Thousands of trucks loaded with perishable goods were stranded along the India-Bangladesh border during the coronavirus outbreak. We arranged for some goods trains to transport those. We realised that massive consignments could be delivered via rail instead of road by a skeletal workforce with strict adherence to Covid-19 protocols. Since then, railways are being used extensively for bilateral trade. Even truck chassis are being transported via rail," she said.
Asked about Chinese engagements in Bangladesh, Das underlined that there are well-established differences in the way of functioning of India and China with respect to international projects.