Monday, 24 January, 2022
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Revive Akhaura-Agartala rail link

Revive Akhaura-Agartala rail link

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Keeping the importance of building strong regional cooperation for expanding business in mind, two neighbouring countries – Bangladesh and Indian – have been taking so many initiatives in recent years aiming at enhancing regional communication. Besides establishing new roads, both the governments are showing their interest in reviving all the seven rail routes launched in the British era and continued operating until 1965. Among them, five routes have already been revitalised and the sixth one – Akhaura-Agartala rail route – is on the way to be restored, though the project is going at a snail’s pace.

On completion, the rail route will usher in a new era of development in the land-locked states of India, Tripura in particular, reducing the distance between Agartala and Kolkata by a third, from 1,613-km to a mere 514 km. At the same time, it will boost the trade and commerce between the two neighbouring countries by opening a new corridor for bilateral business and help ease the movement of goods and passengers. This is why Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has emphasised the resumption of the rail link.

Developing relations to enhance bilateral trade is of huge importance for present-day Bangladesh given that reciprocal deal will be the driving force of economic development after the country’s graduation from the LDCs list as many of the facilities enjoyed currently will not be valid then. Here comes the importance of seamless transport connection that, according to the World Bank’s estimate, has the potential to increase national income by as much as 17 per cent in Bangladesh and 8 per cent in India.

It is of great regret that, for years, the intraregional trade in this part of the world is far below the potential due to the conservative attitude of the nations. While intra-regional trade accounts for 50% in East Asian countries and 22% of total trade in Sub-Saharan Africa economies, bilateral trade accounts for only ten per cent and one per cent of the national trade of Bangladesh and India respectively.

For a better future, signing free-trade agreements is topmost priority now to cash in on the initiatives to establish seamless connectivity. Therefore, countries of this region should extend their hands in economic development that benefits every country to achieve their individual goals.