Ghy-Dhaka air connectivity to open up new vistas for trade & commerce
Parag Khanna, the celebrity writer wrote in his book, Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization - “It is time to re-imagine how life is organized on Earth. We’re accelerating into a future shaped less by countries than by connectivity. Mankind has a new maxim – Connectivity is destiny – and the most connected powers, and people, will win.” This holds true in a world marred by rising geo-political tensions and apt for two friendly neighbours, India and Bangladesh, divided by borders but united by poverty and increasing economic ambitions.
In my maiden visit to Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh in the inaugural Spicejet flight between Guwahati and Dhaka, I saw a sight very similar to one I witnessed in India in the late 1990s and early 2000 – sign of a thriving economy. In the 90s, when I was a journalist with The Economic Times based at New Delhi, I had done a story on how Delhi will be transformed into a world class city in two decades once the Delhi Metro and other related infrastructure is built. Well, Delhi still has much improvement to do but if one compares the Delhi of 90s with that of 2019, infrastructure wise, Delhi can now be compared to many leading cities of the world.
Dhaka of 2019 is as chaotic as Delhi was in the 90s – construction work all over and terrible traffic congestions, where a 4 km stretch would take anywhere between 30 mins to 2 hours and where commuters are vying for space riding their vehicle of choice – from the favoured tri-cycled rikshaws to luxury sedans and of course, not to forget the rickety double decker buses. Amidst this chaos, the sign of an energetic economy is clearly visible – people moving around with a purpose and business meetings at corner cafes on the streets at Gulshan I, Gulshan II and Banani. And once the metro construction is over, likely by 2020, the city of Dhaka will have a complete changeover as far as its looks are concerned.
With a population of over 16 crores, Bangladesh, in the last few years has been clocking an impressive GDP growth of over 7%, projected to increase to 8% by 2020 (Source – ADB), highest in South Asia, even surpassing India. The size of the economy is around $687 billion USD and its unemployment is a manageable 4.4%. What ails the country is inequitable distribution of wealth – a fact well depicted by the condition of infrastructure and living amenities at a distance of 10 kms – between say, Green Road and Gulshan.
What does an economically resurgent Bangladesh mean to an economically ambitious Assam and by virtue of that the entire northeast India in the medium and long run? To the man on the street, the name Bangladesh might hold a different meaning but from a business perspective it opens a whole new vista – a completely new market. As against a population of 3.4 crores of Assam, whatever Assam produces will have a market five times bigger, whose consumption spree seems unabated in the last decade or so. It is in this context that the opening of the direct air route to Dhaka from Guwahati opens a new horizon – there is so much to trade. It is in this context that the people-to-people contact initiative will lead to better relations in trade and commerce between Bangladesh and Assam.
Culturally, Bangladesh still considers Dr Bhupen Hazarika as an icon and holds him dear to their hearts. In every meeting that we had with Bangladeshi lawmakers, business delegations and other groups, Dr Bhupen Hazarika was mentioned and remembered as someone who understood the similarities between the people – he is remembered as that bridge which now needs to be re-laid and reopened.