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India plans linkage to Bangladesh’s Matarbari Port in regional connectivity push

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NEW DELHI : India is considering proposals to connect Bangladesh’s strategically important Matarbari Port to northeastern states, according to people aware of the matter.

Bangladesh expects to boost exports once the country’s first deep sea port is built at Matarbari with assistance from Japan. The port will enhance exports to Southeast Asia, and other Asian markets, and improve its capability to handle cargo from international markets.

“The objective of the project is to strengthen the port’s cargo-handling capacity and to facilitate logistics operations with neighbouring countries. It will do so by constructing a multi-purpose deep-sea port for containers and general cargo in the Matarbari area of Cox’s Bazar, under Chattogram division, contributing to Bangladesh’s economic development,” said Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA),which is helping finance the Matarbari project.

Earlier this year, JICA granted a $750 million loan to the Bangladesh government for the Matarbari development.

The port is set to start operations in 2027, easing the burden on crowded ports like Chittagong. In March, JICA extended an additional $400 million loan to boost road infrastructure between Chittagong Port and Cox’s Bazaar to improve road connectivity to the Matarbari port.

The Matarbari port is expected to enhance economic ties and open up development prospects for India’s northeastern states, including Tripura. The initiative follows plans by Japan, Bangladesh, and India to attract manufacturing to the Northeast and Bangladesh to establish a new industrial value chain in South Asia for exports to Indo-Pacific markets.

The people cited above said, India is actively exploring ways to enhance connectivity to Matarbari, either through a bilateral initiative or in partnership with Japan, which is engaged in major road connectivity projects in Bangladesh.

Queries mailed to the external affairs ministry, and Bangladesh high commission in New Delhi did not elicit any response till press time.

New Delhi is proactively advocating for enhanced connectivity with Bangladesh to boost bilateral trade and foster greater economic ties in South Asia.

Initiatives include the revival of cross-border railway projects, construction of energy pipelines, as well as sponsoring road projects in Bangladesh.

Additionally, India is also interested in the Bay of Bengal Northeast Industrial Value Chain concept championed by Japan, which will lead to increased infrastructure connectivity and synchronized trade policies among New Delhi, Dhaka, and Tokyo.

Besides, China’s growing footprint in Bangladesh has also been a major concern.

Beijing was initially interested in financing a deep sea port in Sonadia, in the south-eastern part of the country.

However, Sheikh Hasina’s government cancelled the plans in 2020, focusing on its ties with Japan to build a port at Matarbari.

News reports at the time indicated that New Delhi was opposed to the Sonadia port project.

India acknowledges that China will maintain a significant presence in its vicinity, and thereby the focus has shifted towards resolving disputes with neighbours and offering attractive connectivity and economic prospects to strengthen bilateral relations in the region.

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