India, Bangladesh push to revive old trade routes in NE

India and Bangladesh leaders in the stakeholders' meet in Guwahati on Tuesday. (Photo: Assam govt.)

India and Bangladesh leaders on Tuesday said efforts are on to fast revive the British-era rail, road and waterways that connected the Northeast via East Pakistan or present Bangladesh but remained snapped since the Indo-Pak war of 1965.

"The Standard Operting Procedure signed recently between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for access to Chittagong and Mongla port will be a gamechanger for the Northeast. The waterways via Bangladesh was the lifeline for the Northeast but this route was closed after the Indo-Pak war due to political reasons. Entire Northeast, including Silchar in South Assam was a trade centre and re-opening of the route will again reduce the cost of transportation of goods from rest of India to the Northeast. The work to revive the 70-km rail route between Akhaura in Bangladesh and Agartala (Tripura) will soon be complete and this is going to hugely benefit both the countries," said Ravi Capoor, Indian commerce secretary, while addressing the India-Bangladesh stakeholders' meet for trade connectivity, here.

The two-day meet, which began on Tuesday is discussing on the projects being undertaken to improve connectivity between Bangladesh and Northeast India to further enhance trade and commerce. 

Assam Industry Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary stressed on early restoration of railway links between Mahisashan in South Assam and Sylhet in Bangladesh. He also requested the Ministry of Shipping to convert the ports of Assam namely, Sadiya, Dibrugarh, Silghat, Nematighat, Pandu, Jagighopa and Karimganj into international standards. Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said tea and petroleum produced in Assam used to reach Chattogram and Kolkata ports through the Brahmaputra-Padma-Meghna riverine waterway as well as through railway lines passing through present-day Bangladesh, before the 1965 war. 

Bangladesh Minister of Commerce, Tipu Munshi, on the other hand stressed that issues related to non-tariff barriers, applications of trade remedial measures, export restrictions and fixation of minimum export prices have already been identified. 

He pointed out that although trade volume between India and Bangladesh touched $8 billion, Bangladesh's exports stood at only $1.25 billion.

Gen. V K Singh (Retd.), Union Minister of State for Road, Transport and Highways said that the new Act East Policy placed the North East at the centre of India’s emerging relations with the countries of South and South East Asia.  

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