Implication on the Northeast from Bangladesh offer of services at Chittagong Port
- Bangladesh PM offered India to use the Chittagong Port during a meeting
- She said the port would be of benefit to India’s northeastern States, particularly Assam and Tripura.
- The two other northeastern States bordering Bangladesh-Meghalaya and Mizoram could also benefit from access to the port.
Effect of Partition on the business in the Northeast
- Pre independence: India’s Northeast had easy access to the seaports, specifically Chittagong, in present-day Bangladesh via the Brahmaputra and Barak River systems before independence.
- During Partition: it did not immediately affect the transportation of tea, timber, coal and oil through these rivers and local-level border trade, helping maintain undivided Assam’s status as the State with the highest per capita income till the early 1950s.
- But the volume of trade began dipping with the souring of ties between India and Pakistan. * Bangladesh was East Pakistan then before the 1965 war cut the Northeast off.
- The movement of goods through the ‘chicken’s neck’, a narrow strip in West Bengal, became a costlier alternative for the region after access to the river and land routes through East Pakistan was denied.
Condition after creation of Bangladesh
- The creation of Bangladesh with India’s help in 1971 did not translate into the revival of the traditional river and land trade and communication routes for the Northeast.
- A degree of mistrust between the two countries, primarily because of the ‘Bangladeshi’ issue and camps established by myriad Northeast extremist groups in Bangladesh, did not help matters.
- Both countries did not look at trade and commerce opportunities more closely.
- Change in scenario after new regime: it began to change when Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League government took charge in 2009 and the mistrust lessened after the dispute-ending land boundary agreement was signed in 2015.
- The two countries undertook efforts to improve capacity across waterways, roads and railroads.
- From a bus service between Agartala and Kolkata via Dhaka to the movement of cargo on barges, trial runs and trans-shipments have been successfully conducted.
Importance of connection between Northeast & Bangladesh
- The Northeast has been the key to the increase in bilateral engagements between India and Bangladesh in the last five years.
- India’s ‘Act East’ policy that focuses on the region and a new sense of cooperation between the two countries can help the Northeast, specifically four States, explore the potential of economic activities optimally.
- These States Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram share a 1,879 km border with Bangladesh.
- Revival of pre- partition trade routes: with a special focus on railways and waterways, many of the pre-Partition trade routes are being revived.
- Most of these roads lead to Chittagong port, which has historically been the largest and the most convenient for trade and commerce for the region.
Various projects between Northeast & Bangladesh
- India has been working on infrastructure on either side of the border.
- Maitri setu: In March 2021, the Prime Ministers of the two countries inaugurated the Maitri Setu, a bridge built over the Feni River, which has reduced the distance between Sabroom in southern Tripura and the Chittagong port to just 111 km.
- Multi modal transit hub: The government is working on a multi-modal transit hub at Sabroom inclusive of road and rail connectivity that can help goods reach the Chittagong port in a few hours.
- Road connectivity: in Meghalaya’s Dawki, southern Assam’s Sutarkandi and Tripura’s Akhaura linking eastern and south-eastern Bangladesh is also being improved.
- Apart from the India-Bangladesh Protocol Route involving the Brahmaputra, cargo ships from Bangladesh have reached Tripura through the Gomati River and Assam’s Karimganj via the Kushiara River.
- Maitri Setu
- Location of Chittagong port
- ‘Act East’ policy
Q Discuss about importance of connectivity between the Northeast and Bangladesh via Chittagong Port.