Monday, 21 September 2020

Dhaka, Bangladesh: Aiming to revive its ‘look east’ policy, Bangladesh will soon invite Rangoon to sign an agreement on the first-phase of construction of the proposed 153-kilometre Bangladesh-Burma road link, according to our Dhaka correspondent.

The communications ministry decided at a meeting on June 12 to send an invitation to the Burmese government through the foreign ministry.

‘The government wants to see some thing positive emanating from the road project before leaving office in October,’ a senior official of the ministry said. ‘We have already conveyed our decision to the foreign ministry with a request to invite the authorities in Burma.’

The road link is a major component of the look east policy the BNP-led four-party alliance government launched in 2002 with a view to cementing ties with countries in Southeast Asia.

The meeting, which was presided over by the communications secretary, Shafiqul Islam, also decided to ask the Planning Commission to approve the project as a priority taking into account its importance in respect of the government’s foreign policy.

The proposed road will stretch from Taungbro to Kyauktaw in Burma via Ramu-Gundom to Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh and be constructed in two stages at an estimated cost of Taka 933.46 crore.

The Bangladesh government, according to the plan, will construct a 43-km stretch of the road in the first stage, of which 20-km will be in Bangladesh and 23-km in Burma, at a cost of Taka 163.49 crore.

Of the total sum, Taka 94 crore will be spent on the 23-km stretch from Taungbro to Bawli Bazaar inside Burma along with two bridges and 90 culverts.

Later, in the second stage, another 110-km stretch from Bawli Bazaar to Kyautaw in Burma will be constructed at an estimated cost of Taka 70.26 crore.

Rangoon has been unwilling and non-cooperative despite repeated requests from Dhaka since September 2005 for finalizing a framework of the agreement on the road link.

It has maintained that it is unable to finance the Burma portion of the road and that the project is not on its priority list.

In May, during his visit, the foreign secretary, Hemayetuddin, convinced the Burma government to sign the agreement, a foreign ministry official said.

According to the framework of the agreement, Bangladesh and Burma will be responsible for planning, construction and maintenance of the road. Both countries will make land available, free of charge, for the proposed road as well as for camping facilities for construction personnel, equipment and supplies.

The Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia, proposed building the highway during her visit to Burma in 2003. The head of the Burma government visited Bangladesh the following year and laid the foundation of the road in Teknaf.

The proposed road link is also considered necessary to establish road communications with Thailand and China and is expected to boost trade and commerce with these south east Asian countries.