Dialogue on stalled BCIM corridor set to resume in Kolkata

April 19, 2017 10:34 am | Updated 10:34 am IST - NANCHONG (SOUTHWEST CHINA)

Negotiations on the stalled Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor are set to resume next week in Kolkata.

After a gap of over two year, the meeting of Joint Study Group (JSG) of academics and officials of the four countries on April 25-26 is expected to finalise the road map for the BCIM economic corridor, scholars at a seminar at Nanchong, southwest China revealed. The China West Normal University is hosting a conference of scholars from China, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka on the prospects of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in South Asia.

The last meeting of the BCIM was held in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh in December 2014.

There is a perception among Chinese scholars that India had become lukewarm to the BCIM project by linking it with its reservations on the China-Pakistan economic corridor which passed through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Indian officials, however, declined the possibility of a connection between the two. However, there was a view expressed at the conference about India’s readiness for participation in standalone connectivity projects with China, which were not necessarily connected with the Beijing-led BRI. Both the BCIM and the CPEC predate the formal launch of the BRI.

Separately, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, at a Beijing press conference on Tuesday, referred to the BCIM economic corridor. Mr. Wang said that the four countries are ready to advance the economic corridor within the framework of the BRI.

"We have taken note of India's positive attitude on this," he observed. "In addition to this we can have further discussion and consultation on possible areas of cooperation within areas of the Belt and Road."

Referring to India’s concerns regarding CPEC, he pointed out that, "Certain sections of the CPEC have raised concerns on the Indian side, but these disputes are not the result of the economic corridor and the economic activities in this region are not the direct result of CPEC.”

He added, “China has been providing support to Pakistan in these areas for many, many years. This is a contribution China is making for development of our neighbouring countries."

The BCIM economic corridor is an ambitious undertaking that hopes to connect Kolkata with Kunming, capital of the Yunnan province. It envisages formation of a thriving economic belt, focusing on cross-border transport, energy and telecommunication networks.

Starting from Kunming, the route passes through nodal points, such as Mandalay and Lashio in Myanmar. It heads towards Kolkata after passing through Manipur and Silchar, before crossing Bangladesh via Sylhet and Dhaka, with branches extending to the ports of Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong.

Chinese experts in Yunnan say that except for a 200-km stretch between Silchar in Assam and Manipur, and a similar length between Kalewa and Monywah in Myanmar, the central artery of the route is nearly functional.

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