India’s Union Minister of State (Independent charge) for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Jitendra Singh has emphasised Tripura taking advantage of its geographic proximity to Bangladesh.
Singh made the call at a meeting with Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar on Friday.
The two discussed projects for improving connectivity and proper utilisation of Tripura’s strategic location with Bangladesh for the overall development of the landlocked bordering state.
Later speaking to the media, the DoNER minister stated Tripura, which would be very soon connected to the mainland India with broad-gauge rail network, should benefit from India’s growing bilateral trade with neighbouring countries under “Act East policy” due to its proximity to Bangladesh.
The minister also said the railways ministry had given a firm commitment to complete the broad gauge project by March 2016.
“This project will be able to convert and develop Agartala into a major railway junction and it will help in expending the railway network in the region.
“More importantly, with the prime minister’s emphasis on Act East Policy, we will now be able to plan further rail connectivity with the neighbouring countries, particularly Bangladesh.”
Singh also said the problem of fund for the Agartala-Akhaurha rail connectivity project was being sorted out.
“As it is a matter also related to the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of DoNER, hence railways alone need not have to fund the project,” he added.
The union minister said to expedite implementation of “Act East Policy,” India is prioritising multimodal connectivity, including waterways, in the northeastern region.
Already 16 projects had been approved for this region, he said, adding Tripura should take maximum advantage from these projects to increase bilateral trade with Bangladesh.
The DoNER minister said, “We are also in touch with the shipping ministry for the waterways. There are already 16 approved waterways for the Northeast from Brahmaputra down to Bay of Bengal.”
“We can work out some mechanism to use these waterways to get maximum benefit as these routes will not only help boost trade but will also help in improving our relations with neighbours.”
Singh further said India’s “Act East Policy” would start from Tripura by reaching out to the countries closer to the state.
He, however, viewed that Tripura had failed to utilise its vast bamboo resources.
“Bamboo potential of this state seems to be underutilised. We want to have a special identity for each of the north-eastern states. These states should be known for something special.
“It’s my firm belief that the state of Tripura has huge potential to emerge as the bamboo state of India.”
The eight Northeastern States – Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim – share 5,437 km of India’s international boundaries with China, Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal.