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Bangladesh may bring SEA closer to south Asia
TNN, February 16, 2014
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GUWAHATI: With the Sheikh Hasina-government back in power, Bangladesh is looking to cash in on its geographical contiguity with northeast India and boost trade and connectivity. Not only that, the neighbouring country is also eager to serve as a bridge between south Asian countries like Nepal, Bhutan and India and southeast Asian nations like Myanmar and Thailand.

Driving home the point that cross-border trade would be mutually beneficial for Bangladesh and northeast India, Bangladesh high commissioner to India, Md Tariq A Karim, put it very eloquently when he said the destinies of his country and the NE are inseparably intertwined, as "God and geography have located us so inextricably interlocked with each other."

Karim added that Bangladesh could serve as a bridge between south and southeast Asia. "We are ready and willing to help reconnect not only the states of the northeast, but also enable Nepal and Bhutan to gain access to the sea, enable India to reach Myanmar and Thailand over land through easy terrain and serve as the hub of regional linkages in all its modes - air, road, rail and riverine. We are prepared to, and are working earnestly together to, restore the historic linkages connecting our two countries," Karim said.

Keeping India's Look East policy in mind, prominent trade bodies are actively advocating better connectivity and business links with Bangladesh, along with other south and southeast Asian countries so that the geographical and economic advantages of northeast India can be capitalized on. The Look East policy envisages vibrant trade links with the southeast Asian countries and the northeast as a commercial hub.

Trade experts here pointed out that better connectivity between the NE and Bangladesh would not only help in promotion of bilateral trade but also help Bangladesh build ties with Nepal and Bhutan via the region.

The Federation of Industry & Commerce of the North Eastern Region, in its memorandum to the 14th Finance Commission last year, had asked the commission to make recommendations on how to address the connectivity issue within the northeast, other parts of the country and also with neighbouring countries on a priority basis.

This article first appeared here

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