train india

The Indian government wants to connect more of the country together. Source: Shutterstock

India looks to invest big bucks in major connectivity overhaul

THE INDIAN government is considering major infrastructure investments, such as a mega cross-border air and land connectivity projects, along with power and energy initiatives, to strengthen its ties with South and South East Asia.

Projects include proposals for Dhaka-Chennai-Colombo air connectivity, Chittagong-Kolkata-Colombo shipping connectivity, Bangladesh-North Bengal rail link, Bangladesh-Bhutan Internet cables through India, trade route connecting Nakugaon Land Port in Bangladesh to Gayleyphung in Bhutan via India, as reported by the Indian Economic Times.

Some of the projects were discussed when Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met her Bangladeshi counterpart Mahmud Ali in Dhaka on Sunday, officials told ET.

Plans for the projects comes at a time when the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is losing steam amid Pakistan’s intransigence over connectivity pacts, according to the Times.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is garlanded by supporters during a public rally at Bhaat village on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India. Source: Reuters

Connectivity in the region is high on the agenda for the Narendra Modi government as China is expanding its footprint in South Asia and Southeast Asia through its One Belt One Road initiative.

Other efforts to strengthen ties include the BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal) motor vehicles agreement (MVA) and BIMSTEC MVA, an anticipated outcome from the seven-nation summit to be held in Nepal early next year to celebrate 20 years of creation of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation.

The BIMSTEC MVA initiative will have multi-modal features connecting Sri Lanka, which has so far been connected to the six members of the grouping only through the air or sea.

The two agreements are a critical part of India’s Act East policy aimed at enabling strengthening of ties with Asen.

Furthermore, a memorandum of understanding for trilateral hydropower cooperation among Bangladesh, India and Bhutan is also expected to be signed imminently and previously India has agreed to facilitate import of electricity to Bangladesh from hydro projects in Nepal.