Is Indian help needed for transport infrastructure? Bangladesh debatesOctober 1st, 2009 - 12:31 pm ICT by IANS
Dhaka, Oct 1 (IANS) The debate over providing access to India to help reach its northeast region has intensified in Bangladesh as the South Asian neighbours prepare for a summit level meeting between their leaders this month.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni’s talks with the Indian leadership last month have paved the ground for the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, likely later this month, reported the New Age newspaper.
Dhaka agreed to allow New Delhi to use Bangladesh territory to carry goods to Tripura in northeast India during a meeting between Dipu Moni and her Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna in New Delhi Sep 8.
New Delhi has also long been pressing for a transit route through Bangladesh to carry goods from one part of India to another and has offered to invest in transport infrastructure here. Negotiations are underway for cooperation in the transport sector, mainly railways.
The two countries are scheduled to sign a deal in May 2010 on India’s access to the Ashuganj Port in Bangladesh that it wants to use to transport heavy equipment for a power plant in Tripura.
The Indian authorities have, however, not yet made any offer of financial packages of benefits when they offered to invest in building required infrastructures, unnamed sources in the Bangladesh foreign ministry told the newspaper.
Former prime minister and opposition leader Khaleda Zia has already voiced her opposition, fomenting fears that India could exercise control over Bangladesh’s transport infrastructure.
A section of foreign policy experts interviewed by New Age newspaper expressed diverse opinions on the issue that is being intensely debated along both sides of the political divide.
Allowing India to build infrastructure in Bangladesh might invite “New Delhi’s unwarranted control” over Bangladesh’s transport system here, some experts have said.
They suggested that Bangladesh should mobilise its own resources to invest in roads, railways and ports.
Bangladesh will need an investment of $2.4 billion for building infrastructure to effectively join the Asian Highway network, including transit to India, which would link Bulgaria in Europe to Philippines in Southeast Asia, according to a study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
“We should thoroughly examine the requirements and modes of investments for a better regional connectivity. It is a question of our national interests, pride and dignity to develop our own infrastructures and I think we should afford the costs,” former foreign secretary Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury said.
Imtiaz Ahmed, professor of international relations at Dhaka University, added that New Delhi realised that cooperation with Bangladesh was essential to develop the country, particularly its northeast region.
“So, we should try to cash in on India’s compulsion. We should think about long-term funding to establish regional connectivity, not merely India connectivity,” he said.
Mostafa Faruk Mohammad, a former diplomat who is now a lawmaker and a member of the parliamentary standing committee on the foreign ministry, however, did not see any problem in receiving Indian funds.
“What is wrong if we take Indian investment as we are having investments from countries such as China and Japan in transport infrastructures?” he asked.
M. Rahmatullah, a former transport expert with the UN, pointed out that no concrete assurance of funding was in sight either from international financing institutions or private investors for building overall connectivity.
“We need not invest money right now in establishing connectivity with India,” he said.
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Tags: asian neighbours, dipu, foreign minister, foreign ministry, former prime minister, heavy equipment, indian authorities, indian counterpart, indian leadership, khaleda zia, krishna, northeast india, opposition leader, policy experts, summit level, transit route, transport infrastructure, transport sector, transport system, unnamed sources