New Delhi, May 4: Dhaka has been cold to New Delhi’s request for transit facilities to the Northeast, but leaders in the region hope the ice will melt soon.
Lured by the success of the Calcutta-Dhaka Moitree Express, Meghalaya wants transport links, including railway connectivity, with Bangl-adesh.
The chairman of state Planning Board, P.A. Sangma, hopes to open negotiations with Bangladesh for a bus service between Tura, the headquarters of West Garo Hills, and Dhaka.
He is also pitching for a railway link from Baghmara, the headquarters of South Garo Hills, to the nearest railway line in Bangladesh, which is 17km away.
“Only that much needs to be constructed by us. I have written to external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee expressing my wish to visit the neighbouring country,” the former Lok Sabha Speaker, who hails from Tura, said.
Meghalaya chief minister Donkupar Roy urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week for a transport link between Sylhet and Shillong and a railway line along the entire Bangladesh border in Meghalaya.
Sangma said the railway link was “very much possible” and that railway minister Lalu Prasad would agree to it.
There are fears in the security establishment that jihadi elements operating in Bangladesh may prove to be a hurdle to the scheme.
Sangma, however, was optimistic that the Look East policy would take off and the Northeast would soon be opened to the rest of Asia.
Most states in the Northeast are keen on trade with Dhaka, notwithstanding their complaints that insurgents from the region are taking refuge in Bangladesh.
Two years ago, Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga was invited by the Bangladesh government to export bamboo to that country.
He, however, did not visit Dhaka, ostensibly, awaiting the return of the Awami League to power for a favourable deal.
Sangma, however, is not waiting for the caretaker government to give way to political parties.
Tripura has approved funds for sharing expenses with the Centre on constructing a railway link with Bangladesh.
Both Agartala and Delhi are anticipating that at some point Dhaka will give in to Delhi’s request for transit facilities and open the Chittagong port for use by India.
Dhaka has been cold to Delhi’s pleas so far, but the latter continues to put pressure on it to grant transit facility for a hefty fee.