By Sujit Chakraborty
Agartala, Oct 4 (IANS) Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb has met Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the national capital and discussed about connectivity and trade between the northeastern states and the neighbouring country.
Deb, who attended an official dinner hosted by the Bangladesh High Commissioner in New Delhi on Thursday, returned to Agartala on Friday.
“Had fruitful interaction with her (Sheikh Hasina) regarding various issues related to Indo-Bangladesh relations. Since Tripura is surrounded by Bangladesh, various bilateral issues related to Tripura and Bangladesh were also discussed,” Deb said in a tweet.
He added: “Most importantly, after my request Madam Hasina also showed interest for an international flight from Dhaka to Agartala. Both Madam Hasina and our PM Narendra Modi Ji share a good bond.”
An official at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat toldudaipur kiranthat during the 90-minute long dinner meeting, Deb apprised Hasina about the ongoing water, surface and air connectivity issues, besides the huge scope of increasing trade and economic activities between the northeastern states and Bangladesh.
“The Bangladesh PM positively responded about air connectivity between Agartala and Dhaka and assured that she would soon take a quick step in this regard. Both the leaders also discussed plying of vehicles between Bangladesh and the northeastern states.
Sheikh Hasina told the Chief Minister that vehicle operation issues are likely to come up in the upcoming treaties to be signed between the two countries,” the official said.
“She also informed the Chief Minister that in consultation with the Indian government, the proposed Sonamura (Tripura)-Daudkandi (Bangladesh) waterway would be declared a notified waterway as part of the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol route,” he added.
Deb told the media here that targeting Bangladeshi investors and industrialists, the Indian government would set up a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Tripura’s border town of Sabroom, which is 70 km away from the Chittagong sea port in Bangladesh.
“The Department of Commerce under the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry on Friday gave approval in-principal for setting up the SEZ in Sabroom at a cost of Rs 147 crore,” Deb said in a tweet.
“The proposed SEZ would be a game changer for Tripura’s economic growth and the entire northeast would be benefited. In the proposed SEZ, employment will be generated for 12,000 people and the expected investment would be Rs 1,550 crore,” Deb said, thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal for sanctioning the crucial project.
After the completion of the under construction bridge over Feni river by March 2020, the surface communication between the proposed SEZ and the Chittagong international sea port would be much easier. High-quality roads are also being constructed on the two sides.
Deb added that the Bangladeshi and other industrialists and investors can set up tea and rubber-based industries in the proposed SEZ.
While addressing an official function here on Friday, the Chief Minister said that after the Petrapole-Benapole border (along West Bengal), Bangladesh has recently allowed India to export 14 more items, including rubber and bamboo, through the Tripura borders.
“I have approached Hasina to allow export of more items, including tea, through the state borders. Tripura has 54 big tea gardens facilitating huge employment,” said Deb, who also holds the Industries and Commerce portfolios.
The Chief Minister said that with the extension of the railway network, transportation between the northeastern states and the rest of India would be easier as the region would now be able to utilise Bangladeshi ports and railway networks.
“The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) extended the railway line up to the border town of Sabroom (in southern Tripura). Hence, the transportation between the northeastern states and the rest of India would be more easy as the region would be able to utilise Bangladeshi ports and railway networks,” he added.
Deb said that the distance between the Haldia port (in West Bengal) and Guwahati is 1,200 km while the distance between Guwahati and the Chittagong international sea port (in southeast Bangladesh) is just 600 km.
“Connectivity between northeastern states and the rest of the country through north Bengal (via Siliguri corridor) is treacherous due to the mountainous terrain, time consuming and expensive while transportation through Bangladesh is much easier, time saving and inexpensive,” Deb pointed out.
He said with the expansion of the railway network in Tripura and other northeastern states and with the utilisation of the Bangladeshi road and railway network, tourism would get a boost in the picturesque northeast India.
“Due to the uncomfortable existing transportation route between northeast India and the rest of the country, over 50 per cent of the allocated amount is spent on ferrying of goods, machinery and essentials. If the proposed waterways are established between the northeast region and Bangladesh, not only transportation would be easier, the GDP of all the northeastern states would increase,” the Chief Minister said.
Five Indian states — West Bengal (2,216 km), Tripura (856 km), Meghalaya (443 km), Mizoram (318 km) and Assam (263 km) — share 4,096 km border with Bangladesh.