Agartala, June 30 (IANS) In the wake of an agreement between India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan for unhindered vehicular movement, a similar accord with Myanmar and Thailand will facilitate smoother surface movement in the region, union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Tuesday.
“An agreement will soon be signed with Myanmar and Thailand to make surface connectivity with adjoining countries in the region easier,” the union minister said after laying the foundation stone of a double-laning project of National Highway 44 here.
He also said that funding from Japan International Cooperation Agency would be sought to develop and improve roads in the northeastern region of the country.
The agreement between India and three other member-nations of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Kathmandu on June 15 was expected to provide a major boost to regional cooperation through unrestricted vehicular movement effective September 18.
The Indian government has taken ambitious initiatives to develop connectivity between the country and its neighbours like Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Thailand to boost economic prosperity, he said.
Announcing road projects for increased connectivity among northeastern states and with neighbouring countries, the minister said his ministry had embarked upon the construction of one lakh km roads in the next five years in the eight northeastern states bordering China, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan.
“Of this target, 10,000 km of roads will be completed soon. A total of 20,000 km roads will be completed by December. National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) has taken initiatives to speed up the road works,” he added.
NHIDCL, a fully owned company of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, was set up recently to promote, conduct surveys, establish, design, build, operate, maintain and upgrade national highways and strategic roads, including interconnecting roads in parts of the country that share international boundaries with neighbouring countries.
Gadkari inaugurated a conference on ‘Key challenges in highways and infrastructure construction in northeastern region and use of innovative technologies and materials’ in Guwahati on Tuesday.
The two-day conference was attended by chief ministers, PWD ministers and senior officials from the northeastern states.
The main objective of this conference is to build the capacity of local contractors, engineers and other stakeholders for participation in construction of highways and infrastructure in the region.
“The involvement of local stakeholders in construction of highways and infrastructure would result in inclusive development of the region by providing new employment opportunities and avenues,” Gadkari added.
The minister said the central government was now encouraging electric vehicles in the country to make the environment pollution-free.
Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar stressed the need to establish road, rail, water, air and telecommunication linkages with Bangladesh.
“Bangladesh is now India’s friendliest and closest neighbour. Hence, we need close connection with this finest neighbour,” Sarkar added.
Sarkar urged the union minister to sanction adequate funds for timely completion of road projects announced by Gadkari.