Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bangladesh updates (July 3, 2010)

Three posts:
1) De javu time...

War crimes trial: Dhaka fears ‘undue pressure’

Dhaka, July 2: The Bangladesh government fears ‘undue pressure’ from Middle East countries, including a risk to jobs of millions of its citizens working there, as it prepares to try Islamists accused of ‘war crimes’ during the 1971 freedom movement, says a report. “A number of middle and top-ranking leaders said the government made the move (on holding the trial) on assurance from influential countries in the West that they would tackle any backlash from Middle East countries against the arrests of Jamaat leaders,” The Daily Star said on Friday.

The trial process began after ‘influential countries of the West’ assured Dhaka that they would ‘tackle’ any such pressures, the newspaper said, quoting sources in the ruling Awami League. The government arrested three top officials of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) earlier this week following a court order on a charge that they had ‘hurt sentiments of Muslims’ at a rally in March. Their custody is being utilised to question them about their alleged role as leaders of youth wings of Islamist parties that targeted unarmed civilians in the run up to the freedom movement, the media report said. These Islamists picked on intellectuals and killed thousands from out of three million who perished in 1971.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government and Awami League officials deny that detention of the Islamist leaders in specific cases is being utilised to start the ‘war crimes’ trial. But the newspaper quoted unnamed middle-level party officials to say that the Jamaat chief Matiur Rahman Nizami and Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid among others were trying to ‘sabotage’ the war crimes trial and had to be apprehended.

2) It is remarkable to see BD's nuke aspirations grow stage by stage...

Russian experts visit Rooppur plant site

An eight-member Russian expert team visited the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in the district Thursday. Earlier at a meeting of the Ministry of Science and ICT on Wednesday, the technical support team discussed issues related to installing nuclear reactors for the Rooppur power plant, sources said.

During the visit, the experts also talked about hydrological and environmental condition of the plant site. "The Russian experts visited and studied the entire location and observed it. They were seemingly very positive about the whole issue," a high official of Atomic Energy Commission said, seeking anonymity.

3) Trade, transit time... It is good to see Manik Sarkar and P.A.Sangma run from pillar to post and make things work. But we also know that there are impending elections, and the change of ruling party can spell a big spoke in the works on infra-building in either state. Besides, as we know with the Kaladan road-waterway link building, things move at a glacial pace in India, unless of course INC's h&d is at stake, as in the case of Delhi Asiad 82 or the recent rendition of that, the Commonwealth Games 2010. That said, a post on the economics (or should I say, the lack of economic sense) in hosting big-game events is overdue. Sometime soon.

Transit, Access to Chittagong Port --- India takes mega projects

India has taken up several mega projects to develop its rail and road infrastructure for access to Chittagong Port and transit and transhipment through Bangladesh to remotest northeastern region. Although India has begun its infrastructure building, Bangladesh is still waiting for Indian financial support to develop roads and railways inside its territory to facilitate the connectivity. Bangladesh has agreed to have land, air and waterways connectivity with South Asian countries, especially to allow India, Nepal and Bhutan to use the Chittagong and Mongla ports.

Similarly, India has agreed that Rohanpur-Singabad broad gauge railway link would be available to Bangladesh for transit to Nepal. Bangladesh has already expressed its will to convert Radhikapur-Birol railway into broad gauge and requested for railway transit link to Bhutan as well. The shipping ministry sources say the government is upgrading the Chittagong port so that it can take extra load and handle cargos from the neighbours. The authorities are hopeful about completion of the upgradation within two years.

According to reports available with the Bangladesh government, the Indian Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure has recently approved implementation of four-lane 78-kilometre Krishnanagar-Baharampore road in West Bengal at a cost of Rs 702 crore. This is an important highway for northsouth road link in the State of West Bengal as it passes through the state longitudinally and connects the northeastern states and neighbouring countries such as Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, according to a recent statement of the Ministry of Road Transport & Highway of India.

The Indian government has also decided to construct a bridge over the Feni river in south Tripura to get access to the Chittagong port and upgrade the connecting two-lane national highway into a four-lane one. The proposed bridge would connect Sabroom town with Ramgarh in southeastern Bangladesh. For this, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has approved a proposal of the state government for conversion of the Agartala-Sabroom national highway into four-lane one.

India will also invest Rs 16.66 billion to develop highways in Tripura and Mizoram to improve connectivity of the landlocked northeastern states with Bangladesh and Myanmar. The Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure (CCI) of India has also given clearance for four lanes of the National Highway from Shillong up to Tripura's southern most border town of Sabroom. India will also extend its railway network to two more places along the India-Bangladesh border by 2014 to improve connectivity between the two countries.

The two border points are Sabroom and Akhaurah in western Tripura, just six kilometres from the Agartala railway station. Bangladesh operates train services on its side up to Akhaurah. Train services resumed in April 2008 between Kolkata and Dhaka. The service was suspended after the 1965 war between India and Pakistan when Bangladesh was Pakistan's eastern wing. It is expected that by 2014, the ongoing work of railway connection up to bordering town Sabroom would be completed.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar has recently said the railway is also extending tracks up to Sabroom, making it very easy for connectivity with the Chittagong port. "After development of the national highways and extension of railway tracks, Tripura and the entire northeast would be linked with Southeast Asia," Sarkar said. According to the joint communiqué issued in New Delhi on January 12 during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit, Bangladesh is supposed to get financial support from India for its infrastructure development, said Communications Secretary Mozammel Haq.

He said this when asked about Bangladesh's preparations to build its infrastructure for connectivity with India. "Once we get the assistance, we will start development of our rail, road and shipping infrastructure," he added. Finance ministry sources say officials of both the countries are working to finalise the modality of Indian line of credit of $1 billion to Bangladesh for a range of infrastructure projects, including setting up or upgrading railways.

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