AS THE third meeting of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor joint study group began in Kolkata Tuesday, China pushed for setting up of an inter-governmental mechanism that can elevate the process of implementing the corridor from Track II to Track I.
The last two meetings of the K2K (Kolkata to Kunming) corridor took place in Kunming in China and Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, respectively.
In the last meeting in Cox’s Bazaar in December 2014, it was decided to elevate the corridor to a Track I status, which means initiation of discussions between the government of the four respective countries. This, however, is yet to happen.
Addressing the inaugural session of Tuesday’s meeting, the head of the 30-member Chinese delegation, Senior Vice-Minister of State Development and Planning Ministry Wang Xiaotao said, “As the four countries sit together on this occasion, it is important to bring up the setting up of an inter-governmental co-operation mechanism. China attaches great importance to the BCIM corridor. Our delegation includes representatives of different government agencies. To achieve results and harness the potential of regional development, there is a need to put in place this mechanism. Research done by the four countries in the matter needs to be consolidated. China has already worked out an inter-governmental mechanism, which is ready to be adopted,” he said.
The 2,800 square kilometer multi-modal corridor was to be the first expressway between India and China, passing through Bangladesh and Myanmar. China had earlier alleged that India had been dragging its feet on the issue. Sources said that the main artery of the corridor was ready, barring a 200 km stretch in Myanmar, which still needs to be upgraded.
The corridor aims at regional co-operation between the four countries, especially with respect to trade and commerce, people to people connect, setting up of special economic zones and industrial hubs along the corridor.
Xiaotao pointed out that his delegation included representatives of the Ministry of Commerce, National Energy Cooperation, representatives of Chinese financial institutions, the Chinese Embassy and consulate and other officials.
The Chinese delegation outnumbered other countries. The Indian delegation was headed by a former Indian Ambassador Rajeet Mitter and included an additional secretary from the Ministry of External Affairs.
Bangladesh Ambassador to Sri Lanka Riaz Hamidullah, who headed the Bangladesh team, said that the project needed to take in to account the “change in circumstances globally”. “There are limitations and differences between the member countries in resources or capacity and this needs to be taken in to account,” he said.
In his address, former Indian Ambassador Rajeet Mitter was more cautious. “I wish to flag for your consideration that even as we explore greater connectivity between BCIM countries, we should be mindful of different domestic circumstances and developmental aspirations in our respective countries. While forging ahead on our respective developmental paths, the four countries are currently at different levels of development, and this should be an important consideration while we engage in mutually beneficial areas of cooperation,” he said.
“Increased connectivity will lead to expanded trade. However, while focusing on expanding trade, equal attention should be paid to sustainability. Greater access to each others’ markets is desirable to achieve sustainable trade cooperation in our region. This would provide a solid platform for regional integration,” he added.