Dhaka’s expressed interest to join IMT — at a time when Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar or BCIM has made scant progress — during prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s virtual summit with her counterpart Narendra Modi on Thursday. She sought India’s support to enable Bangladesh to join the initiative, according to the joint statement issued at the end of the summit.
The IMT highways is aimed at opening land gate to ASEAN and boost trade and commerce. India has also proposed extending the highway to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. India has undertaken two projects in Myanmar under the 1,360-km IMT project that starts from Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand through Myanmar. These are construction of the 120-km Kalewa-Yagyi road sections to highway standard and upgrading of 69 bridges and approach roads on the Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa road section of 150 km.
Bangladesh also wants trucks with its goods to enter Bhutan and Nepal through India and Hasina sought cooperation from Modi in this regard at the summit in what would promote Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) road connectivity as part of sub-regional cooperation, ET has learnt.
At the summit Bangladesh and India discussed ways of cooperation to expand transportation solutions within BBIN region, apart from cooperation in cross-border energy trade.
To facilitate better connectivity and simplify movement of passengers and goods between both the countries, both leaders agreed to an early operationalization of the BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement through expeditious signing of the Enabling MoU for Bangladesh, India and Nepal to commence the movement of goods and passengers, with provision for Bhutan to join at a later date.
“A road belt consisting of India, Myanmar and Thailand is under-construction. India proposed to us earlier to join it. But the then Khaleda Zia-government refused it. Our trade and commerce will see a boost if the road is built. We need to be involved in the road belt considering our strategic interests,” Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told reporters at Dhaka at a post-Summit briefing.
The Foreign Minister said Bangladesh sought India’s support for a power grid development arrangement so that Bangladesh can sell surplus electricity to Bhutan, Nepal apart from India.
India and Bangladesh have been making efforts to enhance transport and connectivity. There has been significant advances achieved in the connectivity area in the recent months, especially in railway connectivity, connectivity using ports and inland waterways connectivity.
The leadership on both sides have been committed to reviving and operationalising the 6 pre-1965 rail links between India and Bangladesh. In recent past both sides have worked to restore and also develop connectivity links.