Guwahati: Greater transport connectivity between India and Bangladesh can dramatically increase national income in both countries, a World Bank report has said.
The report, titled ‘Connectivity to Thrive: Challenges and Opportunities of Transport Integration in Eastern South Asia’ said Northeastern states, West Bengal, and even states like Uttar Pradesh and Maharastra will have huge economic benefits from connectivity.
The report noted that Bangladesh’s export to India could increase by 182% and India’s exports to Bangladesh by 126% if the two countries signed a free trade agreement.
“This analysis found that improving transport connectivity between the two countries could increase exports even further, yielding a 297 percent increase in Bangladesh’s exports to India and a 172 percent increase in India’s exports to Bangladesh”, a statement from World Bank said.
The report set the larger context of connectivity on Tuesday when Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the “Maitri Setu”, a bridge across the Feni River on the Indian boundary between Tripura and Bangladesh.
“Geographically, Bangladesh’s location makes it a strategic gateway to India, Nepal, Bhutan, and other East Asian countries. Bangladesh can also become an economic powerhouse by improving regional trade, transit, and logistics networks,” said Mercy Tembon, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan.
At present, Indian trucks are not allowed to transit through Bangladesh. As a result, the northeast of India is particularly isolated from the rest of the country and connected only through the 27-km-wide Siliguri corridor, also called the “chicken’s neck”. This leads to long and costly routes.
“The eastern sub-region is poised to become an economic growth pole for South Asia. An important component of this development potential is for countries to invest in connectivity – rail, inland waterways, and roads,” said Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director in India.
“This is especially true as the region begins its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, connectivity offers the promise of long-term sustainable and inclusive growth,” Ahmad further added.