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The International North-South Transport Corridor: What Is The Potential For Bangladesh? – OpEd

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The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a 7,200-km-long multi-mode transport project for moving freight among India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Russia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Oman, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine,  It is  going to be a strategic significant connectivity project in Central Asia and Europe. It is a not a new concept. But the current INSTC project was initiated by Russia, India and Iran in September 2000 in St. Petersburg. The agreement was signed on 16th May 2002. Now all parties specially India, Iran and Russia are working to come into enforce. 

The International North-South Transport Corridor connects Mumbai to Moscow and passes through Iran and Azerbaijan. India is very interested to include the Iran’s Gwadar port to facilitate the connectivity project. There are a huge investments of India in Iran. India has good ties with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. The North-South international transport corridor goes from Mumbai to Chabahar via Azerbaijan to Moscow, something very potentials for India’s connectivity plans.

According to Indian Foreign Ministry, Enhancing connectivity The International North South Transport Corridor to facilitate transportation of goods and improve trading links between India, Russia and Iran.

According to Russian Sputnik news The International North-South Transport Corridor will reduce the time and cost of delivering goods by more than 40 percent in comparison with the Suez Canal. Russian and India Foreign Ministers assessed positively the economic cooperation noting new opportunities in the Russian far east. They spoke of connectivity including the International North-South Transport Corridor and Chennai-Vladivostok Maritime Corridor during the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to India in April. The approach in New Delhi is to provide faster and cheaper  connectivity to Beijing ‘s BRI. 

At a connectivity conference in Tashkent on July,  External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar projected Iran’s Chabahar port as a key regional transit hub including to Afghanistan suggesting and hoping inclusion of this port with the connectivity project. Iran may like it’s port with the connectivity project.  This connectivity project will help the regional states to be connected.  

Media report says India has proposed to include the Chabahar port in the framework of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and has welcomed the formation of the India-Uzbekistan-Iran-Afghanistan Quadrilateral Working Group on the joint use of Chabahar port. A meeting of the joint group likely to be held under a quadrilateral framework later this year on joint use of the port.

The main objectives of the project is to revive the ancient transport routes and connect Indian ocean to the Persian gulf to the Caspian sea. It is going to a shorter passage between Russia and India via Iran and Central Asian states. This make the opportunity for Bangladesh. 

There are some prospects and potentials for Bangladesh utilizing the connectivity project. Bangladesh is a neighboring country of India. The have linkage between Indian ports and Bangladeshi ports. The ports of Bangladesh can be connected with this project via Mumbai – Chennai port and Iran’s Chabahar port. The relations between Bangladesh and India is most brotherly. Chittagong port and Mongla port can be connected directly with the project for the maximization of the country’s interest. 

Now connectivity is very essential for every states in the world. As a rising economic star in South Asia, Bangladesh can participate in the project for it’s own business interest.  

The people around the world  know the economy of Bangladesh is booming day by day. It is going to be a South Asian economic super star. Many renowned economists describe it as South Asian economic miracle. The current ruling party, Bangladesh Awami League is trying it’s level best to make the country socio-economically prosperous under the leadership of it’s premier Sheikh Hasina. 

Bangladesh and Central Asia can be connected through this route. There is waiting a huge market for Bangladeshi products. Bangladesh’ garments sector is rising. It needs cotton. Bangladesh can easily import cotton from central Asian states, wheat from Russia,  seek investment from these states and exports it’s leather, apparel and potato to Central Asian states, Eurasian states, Russia. 

Bangladesh would be able to increase it’s export to Iran and seek investment from Iran. using it’s Chabahar port. Although Iran and Russia suffers US sanction. However, India can help Bangladesh in this regard. As a peace lover and peace keeper country, Bangladesh would like it’s relations with every states. ‘Friendship to all, Malice to none’ is it’s foundation of foreign policy. Bangladesh’ s target is to became a developed country. So it needs developing partner. 

We know the ongoing Afghan crisis. Bangladesh can take part in the development process (Soci-economic-infrastructural) in Afghanistan if the situation is normal and stagnant. This connectivity project will pave the way.

Bangladesh would like to play it’s role to ensure the regional stability. It’s aim is to boost up the standardization of the people along the whole regional parts including it’s citizens. Bangladesh would like to be a active partner of every development in the world 

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen  attended at the international conference titled “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity – Challenges and Opportunities” which was hold in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in July. 

The businesses from all parts including will be benefitted. Then Bangladesh may seek to sign PTA with these states to get duty free access. 

Combined efforts among all states to establish a good connectivity in Central and South Asia can open new avenues of cooperation.

 Bangladesh has tried to boost the connectivity with its neighboring countries and playing a leading role through the organisation called the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectorial Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMTEC), initiating to connect Bangladesh with Bhutan, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal, and Myanmar with the ASEAN and BIMSTEC.

Bangladesh is also trying to engage herself in various connectivity projects through road, rail, and sea routes with the neighboring countries cooperation.

In modern world, there is no alternative without connectivity amongst states. A new potential is waiting for Bangladesh to be a partner of this project. The International North South Transport corridor creates and brings  opportunities for Bangladesh. Bangladesh can connect itself with the Central and West Asian countries. Now it is high time for Bangladesh to utilize the connectivity project for the maximization of it’s own interest. 

*MD Pathik Hasan, Dhaka based NGO worker, Freelance writer particularly on current international politics

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