Monday, 21 September 2020

Dhaka, Bangladesh:  In an attempt to by pass Bangladesh, India will make available funds to Burma to build Akyab (Sittwe) as a transit seaport for a sea-and-river trade route for its land-locked northeastern states, reports our Dhaka correspondent. India will provide aid worth $103 million to help Rangoon develop its Akyab port on the Bay of Bengal and a river connection to Mizoram and Burma which will be navigable for cargo. “The future of the Northeast lies in bypassing Bangladesh. Akyab will be the gateway for these states,” Union minister of state for commerce, Jairam Ramesh said. From Akyab, goods will be ferried northwards along the river Kaladan to Mizoram, less than 200 km away. RITES, the Indian government-owned engineering consultant and project manager, will be the operational authority for this road. The new route will mean a leg up for exports from the Northeast. “The Northeast is region rich in resources. However, due to lack of access, the potentials have always been under-utilised. A gateway through Burma will allow a resource-led growth in the Northeast,” said Dipankar Chatterjee, chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry’s northeastern council. The Indian minister, while promising a slew of initiatives to boost Indo-Bangla trade, criticized Dhaka for not providing transit for Northeast-bound cargo. India had also proposed that the Chittagong port be made the gateway to the northeastern states. Bangladesh has been hedging on both proposals. The nearest available ports for the seven northeastern states are Calcutta and Haldia — which is a long drive for trucks, part of it through the hills. Difficulty in access has been a major impediment to the economic development of the Northeast. From Akyab, ships can sail to Calcutta or Visakhapatnam, providing the region with an alternative route. “The project would take three years to finish. Our foreign secretary is in Rangoon now for this purpose,” the minister added.  Foreign secretary Shyam Saran’s visit to Myanmar follows President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s trip to that country in March this year. “The focus is on closer economic cooperation, particularly in infrastructure development,” a foreign ministry official said.