While a resurgent Asia presses ahead-- with Bangladesh also counted in some quarters like Goldman Sachs, as a developed country in the middle of this century, connecting the nations of this continent -- the largest in size with the highest population -- the realisation of the vision will require a well-planned road network. But this country appeared dropped from the proposed Asian Highway (AH) broached by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), when Dhaka insisted on utilising the existing Chittagong- Dhaka highway as part of it. This country was dictated to insist so by its unavoidable demographic factor of a very high population density for saving land. The ESCAP-proposed trans-continental highway was planned to run from India through Tamabil to the other end of Bangladesh to enter India again. This point of discord shattered the dream of the world's ninth largest nation of being connected directly with the rest of Asia by the proposed trans-continental highway.
In this backdrop, the report published in this paper last Monday stating that China and Myanmar have agreed to have a highway connecting Kunming -- the capital of China's western province of Yunnan -- with Chittagong through Mandaley in Myanmar, is refreshing. The report said the agreement to this effect was conveyed to Foreign Minister Morshed Khan by his counterparts from the two countries in separate meetings he had with them on the sidelines of the just-concluded meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Kuala Lumpur-of which Bangladesh is now a member. The highway to come up may give the country access to the eastern half of the AH. The country will also have access to the western half of the trans-continental highway through its highway to Benapole, which links India. Should not one say that the country's plan to save its scarce land has finally clicked?
As Asia's emergent economic super-powers-India and China -- continue rising, adjoining Bangladesh will have to speed up creation of its own prosperity through greater inter-dependence with them in trade and commerce. Myanmar-- being a close neighbour of both of these two countries -- will not lag behind. The highway to come up connecting Kunming with Chittagong - already declared sister cities in an accord between Dhaka and Beijing -- through Mandaley, will give increasingly greater stimulus to growth in business transactions among the three countries. Bilateral trade of this country with China is already significant and that with Myanmar is growing. The highway will help reduce transportation cost and time and, thus, act as a business booster. The earlier it becomes a reality, the better for all the parties involved.
The Ministry of Communications-- which is supposed to have already done sufficient homeworks to have the project through on having the agreement of Myanmar -- should now take steps immediately to formalise the tri-nation consensus on constructing the proposed highway with an accord signed with the countries concerned. As the concurrence of the two countries has come at the fag-end of its tenure, the government must be in a race against the clock to have the formalities with the partner countries duly completed within the time available to it. The tumult of an election year must not be allowed to overshadow the importance of the remaining tasks in respect of this project. Let there be no doubt in any quarters that this agreed tri-nation highway is another beacon of prosperity and hope.