The concept ofEconomic Corridor refers to infrastructure both soft and hard, that helpsfacilitate national and/or regional economic activities. Beyond this, itimplies linear connectivity alonga physical transportation artery such as a road, rail line, or waterway withina defined space or location, linking various nodes of production, distribution,and consumption1 and supported by programmes, policies,institutions, and agreements that facilitate cooperation between the economicclusters along the corridor route.The assessment of an EC by its ‘length’ and’breadth’ can provide a useful framework to assess the EC’s development andexpansion. Fig: Source- · Zone 1: Represents the initial stage of the establishmentof the EC with construction of new roads and up-gradation of existing roads,while putting in place the basic transport infrastructure. Once it is done, theEconomic Corridor can either shift to Zone 2 or Zone 3 (or both) depending onthe agenda the Economic Corridor authority is having in vision.
· Zone 2: Activities include ‘area development’ and’widening’ of the corridor. This can be pursued through investments towardsgreater connectivity, urbanization and industrial development, also enhancingrural development and integration of the surroundings into the EC. · Zone 3: Involves linking the corridor’s existinginfrastructure to the region. The objective here is to improve the mobility ofpeople, goods, and resources between the nodes.
The focus should be onfacilitating trade by removing trade barriers, standardizing import and exportsectors, and investing heavily in cross-border transport and logistics.· Zone 4: Phase begins, when the region has achieved broadseamless connectivity enabling it to consider undertaking joint nationalcross-border projects on a regional-level. This is neither an inevitableoutcome of all regional ECs, nor is it easy to implement.The conceptof economic cooperation within the BCIM region was first developed by Prof. RehmanSobhan who advocated thatmulti-modal transport connectivity and supported by other initiatives andinfrastructure development could significantly:a) reduce transaction costs, b) stimulate trade and investment,c) consequently accelerate growth and poverty alleviation inthis region.2 Prof.Sobhan’s pioneering ideas would eventually lead to the development of theplatform in the 1990s which came to be known as the ‘Kunming Initiative’. The’Kunming Initiative’ evolved into the BCIM Forum for Regional Cooperation i.
e.,Bangladesh China India Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation during its firstwith the objective:1. To create a platform where major stakeholders could meetand discuss issues in the context of promoting economic growth and trade in theBCIM region; 2. Identify specific sectors and projects which wouldpromote greater collaboration amongst the BCIM nations;3. Strengthen cooperation and institutional arrangementsamong the concerned key players and stakeholders to deepen BCIM ties.3The BCIM Economic Corridor is the economic link connectingthe Ganges River of India, the Ayerwaddy River of Myanmar, and the Mekong Riverof Indo-China.
It is the lead bridge connecting the Pacific Ocean and theIndian Ocean. It is a market focus point for China, South and South East Asia. Over theyears, the Kunming initiative developed into what came to be popularly known asthe BCIM Forum. Successive BCIM Forums were held annually making a seminalcontribution in raising awareness about the potential benefits accruing fromthe BCIM cooperation. BCIM cooperation also started to feature inintergovernmental discussions, at highest political levels.
The initial visionof the Kunming initiative was to gradually steer the endeavor from anessentially civil society (Track II) to an intergovernmental (Track I) onewhere political buy-in and intergovernmental ownership would be key to realizingthe vision and the objectives of the initiative.4The Bangladesh, China, India and MyanmarEconomic Corridor is an initiative conceptualized for significant gains throughsub-regional economic cooperation within the BCIM. The multi-modal corridor willbe the first expressway between India and China and will passthrough Myanmar and Bangladesh.5The corridor aims to revivethe south-western trade route of the ancient Southern Silk Road whichfacilitated the shortest journey between China and India which in turn servedas a highway for merchants carrying gold and silver in the 12th century.These advantages are envisaged: I. To accrue from greater market access for goods,services and energy, II. Elimination of non-tariff barriers, III.
Better trade facilitation, IV. Investment in infrastructure development, V. Joint exploration and development of mineral, water,and other natural resources, VI. Development of value and supply chains based oncomparative advantages, by translating comparative advantages into competitiveadvantages, and through closer people to people contact.6 The proposed corridor will cover 1.65million square kilometers, encompassing an estimated 440 million people inChina’s Yunnan province, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and North-eastern and West Bengal in Eastern India throughthe combination of road, rail, water and air linkages in the region. Thisinterconnectedness would facilitate the cross-border flow of people and goods,minimize overland trade obstacles, ensure greater market access and increasemultilateral trade.
7The proposed 2,800-kmlong EC will traverse from Kolkata via Benapole/Petrapole on the IndiaBangladesh border to Dhaka and Sylhet before again entering India near Silcharin Assam. After coursing through Imphal, it moves to Myanmar. After crossingMandalay and Lashio the road will reach Kunming. Fig: Source- Two car rallies, onein 2011 and the other in 2013, from Kolkata to Kunming have demonstrated thetransport-worthiness of the road. China would like the Kaladan Multi-modalTransit Transport Project connecting Mizoram with Kolkata via the Kaladan riverand Sittwe port in Myanmar to become part of the EC. The corridor goes beyondphysical connectivity through roads, railways, waterways and air to providingdigital connectivity, trade facilitation and lowering barriers for smooth andseamless movement of goods, services, investment and people. After all, theregion is rich in natural, mineral and other resources.
8Therefore, building of the BCIM Economic Corridorconforms to the common interest requirements of the sub regional countries’economic and social development.Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM) have agreedto establish a Joint Study Group also known as JSG on strengtheningconnectivity in the BCIM region for closer economic, trade, andpeople-to-people linkages through the development of a BCIM Economic Corridor(BCIM-EC). The first meeting of the BCIM-EC JSG was held in Kunming, China onDecember 18-19, 2013. The second meeting of BCIM-EC JSG was held in Cox’sBazaar, Bangladesh on 17-18 December 2014.
India has participated in two roundsof JSG meetings in 2013 and 2014. At the second meeting of the JSG, it wasdecided that the third meeting should be hosted by India in 2015. During thevisit of Hon’ble Prime Minister to China in May 2015, the Chinese side hasacknowledged the progress made in promoting cooperation under the framework ofBCIM-EC.9But unless or until allfour countries demonstrated equal commitment to the project at theinter-governmental level, the objective of BCIM sub-regional economiccooperation could be little more than a dream. Though official Indian supportfor the BCIM Forum was by no means absent, but over the years,10 theIndian government appeared wavering and inconsistent and, once Bangladeshupgraded its participation to the Track I level (2005, 2010), India was leftincreasingly isolated and on the defensive.
Ø Main Imports, Import Partners, Exports,Export Partners of BCIM Countries Fig: Source-The commodities highlighted in Table are those for which there isindigenous demand and supply in the BCIM sub-region. This demonstrates theexisting trade complementarities between the sub-regional economies and isindicative of potential opportunities in terms of sub-regional trade.