Agartala, Nov 13: The business community in the Northeastern region has welcomed the decision of the caretaker government in Bangladesh to approve the Trans Asian Railway Network (TARN).
Following sustained pressure from India and other Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Bangladesh government had signed the TARN agreement last week at the UN Headquarters in New York.
Talking to the sources here today, Member of the North East Federation of Chamber of Commerce Subrata Roy said the Trans-Asian Railway corridor project would connect an 81,000 km network, stretching from Europe to East and Southeast Asia, which would be beneficial for the economic development of the NE.
Mr Roy said as per the plan, the rail network, dubbed the ''Iron Silk Road'', would link capitals, ports and industrial hubs across 28 Asian countries all the way to Europe and Bangladesh, the 20th signatory to the deal.
The TARN would enter Bangladesh through three directions from West Bengal and exit through a single gateway in the east at Gundhum, Myanmar.
The agreement is a project of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to create a transcontinental railway network across Europe and Asia, Mr Roy said, adding that it would enable the NE states to expand rail transport with other Asian countries and subsequently with Europe.
The project, estimated at about USD 23 billion, was proposed at the fifth ASEAN summit in December, 1995. However, the progress had been slow owing to financial and technical difficulties.
''With the enhanced rail connectivity, we will further strengthen the people-to-people and economic linkages between ASEAN and other Asian neighbours,'' Mr Roy added.
Meanwhile, Tripura Commerce Minister Tapan Chakraborty said the ASEAN wanted the transnational railway to be running by 2015, when the 10-member group of nations would convert itself into a European Union-styled economic community.
''The region also hopes to have a free trade agreement with China fully in place by 2010,'' Mr Chakraborty stated, adding that the UPA government had already taken up a comprehensive railway development project for the NE states and Bangladesh's inclusion in the TARN would definitely help boost the economy of the ASEAN.
He also informed that currently, 14 railway projects in the NE were in progress, including eight new lines, which will set up new railway lines at Kumarghat-Agartala in Tripura, Jiribam-Tupul in Manipur, Dimapur-Zubza in Nagaland, Azra-Bymihat and Dudhnoi-Deep in Meghalaya, Hamuti-Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh, Minaguri-Joghigopa in Assam-West Bengal and Bogibeel Rail-cum-Road Bridge in Assam in the 11th Five Year Plan.