China’s initiatives of reviving the ancient Silk Road through a network of roads and maritime linkages will bolster trade and cultural ties among the Bay of Bengal littorals and over the land mass of Asia and the other continents, according to a noted Bangladeshi economist and business leader.
Abdul Awal Mintoo, who held many key positions in numerous business enterprises at home and abroad, told Xinhua recently that the proposed route will also improve political relations among nations, reduce poverty and bring stability in today’s trouble world.
“In 1999, we have initiated the Kunming declaration to enhance a sub-regional cooperation framework for Bangladesh, China, Myanmar and India, now officially designated as the BCIM Economic Corridor (EC). The BCIM-EC is but a small portion of the huge economic belt that would emerge after the completion of the ambitious 21st Century Maritime Silk Road as envisaged by Chinese President Xi Jinping,” Mintoo said.
Mintoo, former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said that land-based and maritime silk route would connect the 21st Century growth zones of East Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia to the energy-rich Middle East, Europe, Australasia and even Africa.
He said it will be a big boost to the globalization process, apart from promoting international trade and tourism.
According to Mintoo, with the signing the Kunming declaration as the first step, the historical linkage among nations in the region that were disrupted by the unbridled colonial invasion of the area by European maritime powers is slowly being resurrected.
“This is the best way to bring our nations closer not only economically but also socio-politically,” he said.
Mintoo, who is also chairman and chief executive officer of Multimode Group of Companies, has a high academic background and vast expertise in trade, industry, agriculture, shipping, banking and insurance. He obtained his B.Sc. in Transportation Science in 1973 and M. Sc. in Transportation Management in 1977 from the State University of New York.
China is the biggest trading partner of India, as well as most of the South Asian nations, including Bangladesh, and is almost an exclusive development partner of Myanmar, which is now speedily expanding trade links with ASEAN countries, Japan, U.S. and the European Union, Mintoo said.
China, now the world’s second biggest economy, has been expanding its industrial base that now includes hinterlands such as Chongqing and Chengdu and has been exporting materials to Kazakhstan and Europe through rail, Mintoo said.
To be able to connect profitably with the Maritime Silk Road, Mintoo said, the Bangladeshi government should immediately start the construction of deep sea ports, particularly the Sonadia deep- sea port project as well as roads and railway to Northeast India through Sobrum in Tippera.
“Bangladesh should also vigorously pursue direct road and rail connectivity of seaport city Chittagong (some 242 km southeast of Dhaka) to Kunming through Myanmar and address by diplomatic persuasion and accommodation of Myanmar’s reservations, if any, on account of ethnic troubles in the Rakhaine State along that route, ” Mintoo said.
He said that Bangladeshi government should not also delay the construction of the BCIM-EC multiple road outlets that it has committed earlier.