May 19, 2013 | 01:50 PM (BD Time)
19 May, 2013 Sunday
Ctg-Kunming Rly link may remain a dream
. UNB, Dhaka
Although Bangladesh and China are keen to establish a rail link between Chittagong and Kunming via Myanmar to increase bilateral trade and business, the fate of their project in this regard hangs in the balance as Myanmar has stood in the way.
"We're keen to establish a rail link between Kunming and Chittagong via Myanmar, but the (public) opinion in Myanmar is against this railway connectivity. So, establishing such a rail link is unlikely right now," Vice Minister for Commerce of Yunnan Province Li Jeming told a group of visiting journalists from various countries in Kunming recently.
Referring to the possibility of constructing the regional rail network, he said the provincial government of Yunnan works out to set up railways with Myanmar and has been providing financial support to it (Myanmar) to set up the rail tracks.
"The Chinese government has already given US$ one billion grant to set up rail tracks in Myanmar. As per the decision of the central government, we'll provide a total of US$ 2 billion grant to Myanmar," Jeming said.
He said if the Chittagong to Kunming rail connectivity can be established, it is not only China but also Bangladesh and Myanmar will be benefited by enlarging their trade volumes.
Replying to a query, Jeming said the main responsibility goes to Myanmar to motivate their people. "The media also has a role to play to change the mindset of Burmese people in building the rail link with Bangladesh."
He said China is going to establish rail connectivity with Vietnam soon. "I hope Myanmar will be willing to build Chittagong-Kunming rail
link in the future by assessing the mutual benefits of such rail connectivity in China and Vietnam."
In October 2010, Assistant Minister for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China Liu Zhen during his visit to Dhaka also expressed willingness of China to construct a railway link between Chittagong and Kunming via Myanmar to boost Sino-Bangladesh cooperation.
With a view to building regional network, the Bangladesh government in 2010 took a plan at a cost of Tk 18.52 billion to build a rail road up to Myanmar border by 2014, aiming to provide a corridor for the proposed Trans-Asian Railway and connect Kunming through Myanmar.
Earlier, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) of Bangladesh government had a Tk 18.25 billion project to construct a single-track rail route from Chittagong to Gongdoon on the Myanmar border.
Bangladesh signed an agreement to join the Trans-Asian Railway network in November 2007, after a three-year feasibility study conducted from 1999 to 2001 found it prospective and beneficial.
By connecting the country with the Trans-Asian Railway, which will also be part of a trans-continental rail network, Bangladesh will be able to have links with the Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Singapore through Myanmar, as well as with Europe through Turkey.
Bangladesh is also keen on using the proposed Chittagong-Gongdoon rail track to have a link with Kunming through Myanmar.
Prime Minister Sheik Hasina also raised the issue of Chittagong-Kunming road and rail links during her official visit to China in 2010 as significant steps in boosting bilateral ties between the two countries.
A rail route was constructed between Chittagong and Sittwe after a complete feasibility study by the Burmese railway authorities from 1917 to 1919, during British colonial rule, but it could not be completed due to the breakout of the World War II.
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