STAFF correspondent SHILLONG, Nov 5 - Chief Minister Conrad Sangma today began his 700-km road trip to Bangladesh, dubbed ‘Connecting Borders’, leading a delegation of 20 with much fanfare.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and other delegates being welcomed by Bangladesh officials at the India-Bangladesh Friendship Gate near Tamabil inside Bangladesh on Tuesday. – UB Photos
The delegation comprises three Cabinet ministers – Lakhmen Rymbui, Sniawbhalang Dhar and Banteidor Lyngdoh – and also entrepreneurs, officials and tour operators.
Sangma said the trip is part of India’s Act East Policy. It is also aimed at understanding what Bangladeshis “feel” about the Indians, he added. The trip will seek to “deepen the relationships across many sectors and to build networks that are mutually beneficial”.
The delegates entered Bangladesh in the afternoon through the Dawki border and headed down south to Sylhet district.
The delegation will move further south to Bangladesh capital Dhaka. It will then move back north to Mymensing before reaching India through the Garo Hills.
Earlier, the delegation was greeted by Border Guards Bangladesh and other senior Bangladesh officials.
On the way, the Chief Minister and the delegates stopped at Jaintiapur, the erstwhile summer capital of the Jaintia kingdom. The delegation visited one of the last remaining ruins of the Jaintia kingdom, which has allegedly been neglected by successive Bangladesh governments.
Officials said Sangma would request the Bangladesh Prime Minister in a proposed meeting during the trip, to restore the site.
According to the officials, the border trade with Bangladesh is valued at over Rs 630 crore. Bangladesh imports coal, limestone and boulder stone from Meghalaya. Moreover, there are two border haats (markets) at Kalaichar and Balat.
Meghalaya will seek to strengthen cooperation with Bangladesh in sectors like tourism, power and education.
Meghalaya has been able to tap just 10 per cent of its 3400-MW hydropower potential. The State hopes to increase this capacity by 2022 with the commissioning of six new medium and large hydropower projects. Officials said Bangladesh is an important market for power supply from Meghalaya.
The State Government also hopes to encourage more students from Bangladesh to study in institutions in Meghalaya. The Chief Minister and the Education Minister will make a presentation in this regard.
The State, on the other hand, stands to benefit with increased and smooth access to the Chittagong port for trading goods to South East Asian nations.