BCIM ECONOMIC CORRIDOOR
Article emphasizing on BCIM
The Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation (BCIM) is a sub-regional organization of Asian nations aimed at greater integration of trade and investment between the four countries.
The Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar Economic Corridor is an initiative conceptualized for significant gains through sub-regional economic cooperation within the BCIM. The multi-modal corridor will be the first expressway between India and China and will pass through Myanmar and Bangladesh.
The proposed corridor will cover 1.65 million square kilometers, encompassing an estimated 440 million people in China’s Yunnan Province, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Bihar in Northern India through the combination of road, rail, and water and air linkages in the region. This interconnectedness would facilitate the cross-border flow of people and goods, minimize overland trade obstacles, ensure greater market access and increase multilateral trade.
The primary focus of the economic corridor is to facilitate trade and connectivity between the landlocked and underdeveloped southwestern parts of China and the North Eastern region of India.
The proposed economic corridor will originate from Kunming in China’s Yunnan province and pass through Yangon and Mandalay in Myanmar, Chittagong-Dhaka-Sylhet in Bangladesh before entering North Eastern states, Bengal and ending in Kolkata. The leaders of the four nations intends to revive the ancient “Southern Silk Road” and its southwestern trade routes which emerged as the shortest journey between China and India and served as a highway for merchants carrying gold and silver in the Twelfth century.
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Benefits of the Corridor to India
- The economic advantages of the BCIM trade corridor are considerable, most notably: access to numerous markets in Southeast Asia, improvement of transportation infrastructure and creation of industrial zones.
- India’s isolated eastern and north-eastern states also stand to gain by higher trade and connectivity with China and the rest of Asia.
- Agartala is 1,650 kilometres from Kolkata when one travels through the ‘Chicken’s Neck’, the narrow strip of land north of West Bengal, which is only 23 km wide. In contrast, the distance gets reduced to just 350 km if the journey passes through Bangladesh.
- Similarly, India’s north-eastern States have no access to the sea, even though Tripura’s southernmost border town, Sabroom, is only 72 km from Chittagong, an international port in Bangladesh. At least one major reason behind Kolkata’s economic decline after India’s independence is its unnatural isolation from its natural eastern neighbourhood.
- BCIM also benefits India and Bangladesh in other ways. With natural gas reserves of about 200 trillion cubic feet, the largest in the Asia-Pacific, Bangladesh could become one of the major energy exporting countries. Yet, today it imports 500 MW of electricity from India and is planning to import an equal amount from Myanmar.
- Tourism too will get a boost. Bangladesh attracts less than one million foreign tourists in a year. For India’s north-eastern States, the figure is less than 2,00,000. Contrast this to the fact that Vietnam attracts 8 million, Cambodia 5 million, and Thailand 26 million foreign tourists annually.
- The North Eastern states maintain trade and commercial ties mainly with three neighbouring countries—Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. There are scopes for cooperation in the services sectors like health, tourism, education, and transport and communication between North East and the neighbouring countries.
Challenges facing BCIM
- BCIM remains one of the least connected regions in the world. BCIM initiative will need to be geared to build the road, rail and air transport connectivity lack of which at present hinders deepening of trade and investment infrastructure.
- A Good infrastructure and excellent connectivity are key to establishing and stimulating deeper integration among the members of any aspiring regional grouping. For the success of any growth zone initiative such as the BCIM it is essential that the participating countries proactively engage themselves in building the required physical infrastructure to facilitate movement of goods and services.
- Establishment of a seamless system of cross-border movement of both cargo and people is major challenge for the BCIM. The issues go beyond building the physical infrastructure. For easing up cross border movement and establishing greater connectivity the existing trans- border formalities, vehicular movement and customs procedures need to be simplified.
- Success of regional cooperation largely depends on the existence of a level playing field for trade for all the participating countries. This can be ensured by removing all non-tariff barriers to trade. Harmonisation of standards, tariff structure, and dismantling of all para-tariff and non-tariff barriers are key to this.
- Political commitment on the part of the participating countries is to take the BCIM cooperation forward in a sine qua non for closer cooperation among BCIM countries. Cooperation between member countries are lacking to major extent and there is major trust deficit between countries.
- There may be genuine apprehension on the part of the smaller economies that such integration could be detrimental to their trade and investment interests.