New Delhi: Railway minister Suresh Prabhu on Wednesday pitched for rail connectivity with neighbouring countries to boost trade and eliminate poverty in the region. Highlighting the need for physical connectivity with neighbours for trade growth, he advocated work on rail link from Kathmandu to Delhi and Kolkata shortly.
“Asia is going to be the next future growth centre of the world. Asia being the large continent, it is going to be very interesting to see how all countries of the region participate in the growth,” Prabhu said, while inaugurating the global conference on transcontinental rail connectivity here.
Organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in coordination with the railways ministry, the conference aims at taking forward the proposed railway transport connectivity in South and South-West Asia.
Considered to be a major boost for trade and economic development of the Asia Pacific region, a trans-container goods train from Dhaka to Istanbul covering Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey is being considered by Indian railways along with neighbouring countries.
However, Prabhu said there is also a need to have political understanding for achieving physical connectivity for economic growth. “It is a very interesting idea to bring rail connectivity in South and South West Asia... and to have this, proper political understanding is a prerequisite,” he said.
Even if we work on this idea, it will ensure benefit of the region, he added. The two-day conference will explore the way forward to establish rail connectivity from Dhaka to Istanbul. “We already have rail connectivity with Dhaka. We will have an international agreement for this to go up to Istanbul,” he said.
Prabhu said, “Connectivity and integration of trade bring about huge economy growth. Integration of market can happen through trade policy and other means like investment. But unless you bring in physical connectivity trade potential cannot be realised.”
On Indian Railways’ plan, he said, “We want to start with our neighbouring countries first, like Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan. We have decided to connect all our neighbours. We already have some and wherever there is a need we will work it out.”
On Nepal, he said, “We must ensure there is a connectivity between Kathmandu and New Delhi and Kathmandu and Kolkata.” Prabhu said GDP will grow through expansion of rail network. “We are also working in a big way in Sri Lanka in the rail sector. This will pave the way for connecting the entire world through railways. It will benefit the country in eliminating poverty. Development will pick up.”
On Pakistan, he said, “With Pakistan, we already have rail connectivity. We are working very actively in Bangladesh. “In Myanmar, we are already working. That will ensure the important missing link between South-East Asia and India. It will happen through Myanmar.”