SHILLONG, April 25 - Bangladesh High Commissioner to India, Syed Muazzem Ali today drew attention to certain �anti-connectivity forces,� collaborating in India and Bangladesh to derail bilateral trade and commerce.
Speaking at a two-day Economic Cooperation Dialogue in Eastern South Asia here, Ali said, the bogey of security is put forward by these vested interest groups, whenever momentum is generated to develop the underdeveloped connectivity between India and Bangladesh.
The dialogue is being organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific and North Eastern Council (NEC). Delegates from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Vietnam are taking part in it.
Stating that the two countries mustn�t always view development of connectivity and opening up the borders from the security perspective, Ali said: �Anti-connectivity forces are constantly raising issues of security to make us more insecure.�
Historically, he stated, �inaccessibility� of the South East Asian region was �used as a defence mechanism,� but what is required now is a �change of mindset and political will,� and develop connectivity.
Advocating development of railways, waterways and road connectivity as the way ahead for regional development, Ali said: �economics must triumph over politics.�
Opening up the border with Bangladesh has been a sensitive subject in the North East for fear of influx and misuse by militants, although many strongly vouch about the economic dividends of such a move.
Of late, both countries have taken a number of policy decisions to improve connectivity. As part of the policy, opening of the train service between Kolkata-Dhaka, Agartala-Dhaka, Guwahati-Shillong-Dhaka bus services have been positive changes. The train link between Howrah-Agartala, through Bangladesh, is slated to be completed soon, Ali said.
Drawing attention to the lukewarm response to the bus services, the Bangladesh High Commissioner said these services should be made �user-friendly and cost-effective.� �The frequency of the bus service should be increased and the services should also be subsidised to attract more passengers,� Ali suggested.
NEC secretary, Ram Muivah�s views resonated with Ali�s when he said policymakers should shed their �security phobia,� and concentrate on developing the border areas into economic zones.
Muivah added, that in the over 2,000 km-long border, North East India shares with Myanmar, there are just four border trade centres. He referred to these as �token border trade centres.� Ukhrul district in Manipur, sharing 200 km with Myanmar, does not have a single trade centre, he informed the delegates.
�People in the border areas are equally patriotic as anyone of us here. We need to trust and understand them,� the NEC secretary said while informing that he comes from a remote border village with Myanmar.