Sandeep Joshi

It will cover 80,900 km in 28 nations

Opportunity to strengthen ties with South-East Asia

Network will improve Asia-Europe trade

NEW DELHI: India on Friday signed the inter-governmental agreement on the trans-Asian railway that proposes to connect 28 nations.

The network covers 80,900 km of rail lines, including 22,600 km in South Asia, Iran and Turkey. The southern corridor, as decided at an experts group meeting in Dhaka in 1999, begins in Kunming in China and Bangkok in Thailand and ends in Kapikule in Bulgaria.

The total length of the route between Bangkok and Kapikule is 11,460 km and it provides trans-continental connectivity to China, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Iran and Turkey.

Railway Board Chairman J.P. Batra signed the agreement at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Earlier, 18 countries signed it at Busan in Korea in November 2006. Now with India and Bangladesh signing it, 20 countries have become signatories.

The proposed route will enter India at Tamu, bordering Myanmar. It will then run towards Bangladesh at Mahisasan or Shabajpur and again enter India from Bangladesh at Gede. A 315-km missing link on this route is between India and Myanmar; of this, 180 km, in India, is between Jiribam and Tamu in Manipur. On the west side, the route enters Pakistan at Attari.

Apart from strengthening rail links in the northeast, the new network will give India an opportunity to strengthen ties with south-east Asian nations. It will improve transport between Asia and Europe, facilitating movement of goods and containers between SAARC and ASEAN countries and enhanced trade.

The network, a project of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific aims at promoting infrastructure development in the ESCAP region.