New Delhi Reuters) – Japan has proposed developing an industrial hub in Bangladesh with supply chains to the landlocked northeastern states of India, and to Nepal and Bhutan beyond by developing a port and transport in the region, officials said on Tuesday.
It comes after Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to India last month in which he touted the idea of a new industrial hub for the Bay of Bengal and northeast India that could bolster development in the impoverished region of 300 million people.
After Kishida’s visit, his government approved $1.27 billion in funding to Bangladesh for three infrastructure projects – including a new commercial port in the Matarbari area with links to adjacent landlocked Indian states, including Tripura, and wider international markets.
“It can be a win-win plan for India and Bangladesh,” Hiroshi Suzuki, Japan’s ambassador to India, said on Tuesday, citing the industrial hub proposal at a meeting of Indian, Bangladeshi and Japanese officials in Agartala, the Tripura state capital.
He said the deep seaport was likely to become operational by 2027 and would be a key to building an industrial hub connecting the Bangladeshui capital Dhaka to landlocked areas of India.
G Kishan Reddy, India’s federal minister for its northeast region welcomed the Japanese initiative at the meeting. Bangladeshi minister of state for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam said it would boost Indian-Bangladeshi trade and help bring in Japanese and other foreign investment.
The envisaged Matarbari project would be Bangladesh’s first deep-sea port capable of hosting large vessels.
Tripura state is about 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the proposed seaport, and could prove a gateway for regional exporters, said Sabyasachi Dutta, head of Asian Confluence, a think-tank which organised the two-day meeting.
India and Japan have jointly developed infrastructure projects across Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Africa as an alternative to China’s multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative in order to counter spreading Chinese influence.
Suzuki said that more than 300 Japanese companies were already operating in Bangladesh. Both countries are expected to sign an economic partnership agreement soon that could further boost manufacturing and attract more foreign companies, he said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will visit Japan from April 25-28 at Kishida’s invitation, a government statement said.