Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday (29 May) said India needs to tap the potential of historic riverine systems with Nepal and Bangladesh to accelerate logistic movement to expedite its growth story.
Speaking at the NADI 3 Asian Confluence River Conclave 2022 in Guwahati , she said Chittagong port in Bangladesh will open up immense possibilities to boost the northeast's connection with mainland India, reports Times of India.
"Between India and Nepal alone there are around 6,000 such riverine systems which connect the two through rivers and these riverine systems are the ones which infused so much water in the entire basin. And so do between India and Bangladesh, 50 riverine systems, beautifully woven with one another and therefore we have every reason to focus on looking at waterways as one of the very important infrastructure for better logistics," she said.
Sitharaman said the inland waterways suffered for want of attention till the Narendra Modi government came to power.
"The government of India is fully committed to our Neighbourhood First Policy as much as developing the northeast as the gateway to the entire Southeast Asian nations," she asserted.
Not just in the northeast, but she said connectivity with the entire Southeast Asian nations can be built and developed culturally in terms of civilization.
"We have so much in common and we have also to leverage it so that people to people contact gets built up," Sitharaman added.
The Indian finance minister underlined the Modi government's projects to enhance the connectivity in northeast India and with its neighbouring countries.
She said the Indian government is implementing the rail, road and air connectivity projects worth Rs1,34,200 crore in the northeast with utmost priority. She drew attention to the 15 ongoing air connectivity projects in the northeast at a cost over Rs2,200 crore.
"The Centre is also developing 4,000 km of road projects in the region at a total cost of Rs 58,000 crore," she said, putting development of national waterway 2 on Brahmaputra and national waterway 16 on river Barak in the priority list.
Also, Sitharaman said the 20 railway projects costing over Rs 74,000 crore for 2,011 km length falling in the northeast is another major boost that the northeast is getting.
The Chief Minister of Assam Himanta Biswa Sarma shared the vision of the state government of developing Assam as a river cruise hub in Asia.
"We have made our best efforts to give tangible shape to our connectivity with Bangladesh and ASEAN nations through road, rail and air," Sarma said.