Asian Highway: A Strategic Impact Analysis The concept of Asian Highway was first conceived in 1959 to bring the

Asian countries closer together through promoting trade and commerce, cultural exchanges, tourism, and people to people contacts. Rapid economic growth in the Asia Pacific region created huge demand for improved, reliable and costeffective road networks to connect regional countries to transport goods, and therefore the Asian Highway project saw tremendous progress throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s with the help of member countries. The intergovernmental agreement on Asian Highway project was signed on 18th November, 2003 and became effective on 4th July, 2005. A total sum of $26 billion has already been invested in the project and talks are underway with the member countries to raise another $18 billion to improve the road transport capacity and efficiency of the network. [1] Now, let's look at the benefits to be derived and risks to be borne by the member countries if they implement the Asian Highway project. Benefits of Asian Highway The Asian countries are expected to derive the following benefits by connecting through the multi billion dollar mega highway project: 1. Integration of regional economy through boosting trade and commerce 2. Enhanced economic and social interactions through promoting tourism 3. Regional cooperation in harnessing natural resources to maximize economic benefits 4. Fostering trust, stability and peace among the member countries Associated risks of Asian Highway Although experts argue that economic benefits overweigh the risks associated with this mega highway project, it is imperative that we briefly mention the risks associated with Asian Highway for objective analysis. The risks are described below: 1. Increased exposure to HIV/AIDS and other life threatening diseases 2. Increased risks of human and drug trafficking 3. Increased risks of environmental degradation 4. Increased risks of terrorist attacks on people and transport infrastructures The Asian Highway has become a controversial political issue in Bangladesh because of conflicting choice of routes by Bangladesh and India. The three proposed routes are as follows: AH-1: AH-2: AH-41: Myanmar. India-Benapole-Jessore-Dhaka-Kachpur-Sylhet-Tamabil India-Hati Kumrul-Dhaka-Kachpur-Sylhet-Tamabil Bazaar-Teknaf-

India-Mongla-Jessore-Hati-Kumrul-Dhaka-Kachpur-Chittagong-Cox's

While Bangladesh prefers AH-41 because it is the shortest and most cost-effective route to transport goods to ASEAN countries and China, India prefers the other routes because they connect North East India to mainland through Bangladesh before connecting to Myanmar. Many experts in the country are of the opinion that the preferred routes of India would diminish strategic and economic advantages of Bangladesh because they are the longest routes and have both the entry and exit points in India. In light of the above discussion, let's do an impact analysis for each of the routes proposed by UNESCAP. AH(Asian Highway)-41 Economic Impact 1. This is the shortest and economically profitable route to connect to ASEAN states through which Bangladesh will be able to transport goods at the shortest time and at the minimum cost. If implemented, Bangladesh will be able to gain competitive advantage in the ASEAN market due to time and cost advantage.

5. 3. stability and tranquility at the border areas. 4. Using her strategic geographic location and port facilities. Bangladesh will also be able to establish profitable economic relations with North East India by delivering the right product at the right time and at the right price. eradicate unemployment and achieve major economic power status in the region. Security Impact: 1. Bangladesh will retain her strategic advantage over India and continue to hold the key to stability and economic development of geographically isolated North East India to use it as a bargaining chip to extract concessions from India in other areas of interest. 2. Bangladesh will be able to define her trade relations with the rest of the world independently because. improved health care system and reduced crimes in the society. Economic emancipation will create mass awareness about human rights and social justice to establish social harmony through eradicating exploitation. The benefits of increased economic activities will be felt through higher standard of living.2. The absence of a military corridor through Bangladesh means the strategic value of 'chicken neck' will not diminish as this will still remain as the only fragile link between India and its North Eastern states. India's perpetual reliance on strategic 'chicken neck' to supply military logistics to its North Eastern states will minimize the risk for Bangladesh to get involved in a conflict between India and China. The risk of mass migration of people from underdeveloped North East India to alter the existing demographic composition will be minimized and the opportunity for equal distribution of wealth will be maximized. 2. 4. Using her competitive advantage. deprivation and misuse of power. The risk of inadvertent involvement in the conflict between India and its North East insurgent groups will be minimized as India cannot use this route to transport military goods to its turbulent North Eastern states. this route will make Bangladesh the indispensable bridge between SAARC and ASEAN and transform her into the nerve center of regional economic activities. 4. Bangladesh will be able to attain high economic growth rate through extracting economic benefits from North East India and ASEAN markets. it is imperative that the government of Bangladesh take cognizance of above mentioned factors to choose the most appropriate route to connect to China and ASEAN countries to . 3. 3. 4. CONCLUSION In the final analysis. 3. Improved relations between security forces of Bangladesh and Myanmar to remove suspicion and mistrust. The cross border criminal activities could be kept at the minimum level through smart border management to ensure peace. If implemented. Strategic Impact: 1. 2. Bangladesh will remain as an important strategic player in South Asia because of her unique geographic location vis a vis India and continue to be a valued partner of China and the rest of the world through positively affecting the strategic direction of the region to achieve stability and prosperity. AH-41 creates a mutually dependent relationship among the connected countries. reduce poverty level. process improvement and technology development. arms smuggling and drug trafficking through small Bangla-Myanmar border. and to foster understanding and cooperation based on mutual trust and interest. More efficient and effective control of cross border movement of criminals. The threats of sabotaging trade links by North East Indian insurgent groups will be totally eliminated due to the absence of direct road links with North East India. 5. Social Impact: 1. The expanding domestic and international market for Bangladeshi products will accelerate the process of industrialization through product innovation. unlike AH-1 and AH-2.

political and strategic benefits and to minimize the risks of losing strategic advantages by ensuring mutual interdependence and balance of power with other member countries. which already is its second largest trading partner. The last but not the least. should surely be considered with due importance. they must go through India.maximize economic. Myanmar. an initiative to link Chinese province of Yunan with Seven Sisters of India. 3. will get a much shorter route to China. most of the trading nowadays takes place through sea-route. as well as Bangladeshi goods loose competitiveness in Chinese market. If Bangladesh wants to access South Chinese underdeveloped market. . Bangladesh. Thailand and Bangladesh. It is time for Bangladeshi experts to sit with the pros and cons of the transit issue by forgetting their mere political motivations to oppose India. is the mutual transit. if profitable for the economy of Bangladesh. in return. The issue. The cost of import increases. Unfortunately. This was a point of concern for the Chinese delegates during Kunming initiative in 1999.

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