Dhaka to sign Asian Highway pact as per UNESCAP routes

May 21, 2009

Communications ministry meets today to settle the issue
The Awami League-led coalition will sign the inter-governmental agreement on the Asian Highway network although the BNP-Jamaat government refrained from ratifying it on the grounds of ‘controversial’ route proposals, said officials of the communications ministry on Wednesday.
The BNP-led four party alliance, which tried to bring about changes in the proposed routes, did not sign the multi-national deal before the deadline that expired on December 31, 2005.
It believed that acceptance of the routes proposed by the United Nations for Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific would give India the opportunity to use the country as a transport ‘corridor’.
The present government does not harbour such an attitude and will not miss the chance to join the highway network, said communications minister Abul Hossain.
He told New Age that he would hold a meeting today (Thursday) with the ministries of foreign and home affairs and defence, and also the Economic Relations Division to pave the way for ratifying the treaty.
‘We don’t want to be isolated from the rest of the world,’ he added.
Sources said the Prime Minister’s Office has recently directed the communications ministry to settle the issue before the upcoming meeting on the Asian Highway network on September 4, 2009, in Bangkok.
‘The country has no other option but to ratify the treaty as per the existing proposals,’ said transport expert Rahmatullah.
Rahmatullah, a former director of the UN, told New Age that the pleas for changes in the routes would have been effective if the country had ratified the treaty in time.
There are three proposed routes. Two are the main routes which connect India and Bangladesh. The third one, connecting India, Bangladesh and Myanmar, is described as a regional route.
The BNP-Jamaat government wanted the third one to be the main route as it would bolster the country’s much cherished ‘Look East Policy’ and expedite economic cooperation with Myanmar, China, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The BNP, now in the opposition bench in parliament, believe that the ‘Look East Policy’ will not be materialised if the existing proposal of the Asian Highway routes is accepted.
The UNESCAP, however, insisted on ratification of the treaty before Bangladesh places proposals for any change of routes.
The Asian Highway network, which will stretch for 1,41,000 kilometres and cross 32 Asian countries after completion, is also linked with Europe. So far 28 Asian countries have ratified the agreement, according to UNESCAP.

Courtesy of NewAgebd

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