India is working on a slew of road and bridge projects to improve connectivity with Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
According to Indian media, the strategic projects being constructed by the state-run National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corp. Ltd (NHIDCL) include a bridge on the Feni river in Tripura, which will connect Agaratala with Bangladesh’s Chittagong port and a bridge over river Mechi which will link Bhadrapur in Nepal with Galgalia in Bihar.
Other projects include a 300 km road network in Nepal’s Terai region. Another road network is being built to connect Aizawl in Mizoram with Kaladan in Myanmar and Imphal in Manipur with Tamu, also in Myanmar.
With India stepping up efforts to accelerate development of infrastructure along the country’s frontier in the backdrop of Chinese troops making repeated incursions into Indian territory, these projects will help India project its strategic capabilities in the region.
The road construction in Nepal’s Terai region assumes importance in the backdrop of India’s interests in the country. The Terai region runs along Nepal’s border with the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and is populated by Madhesis, who live in the subtropical plains of Nepal and have have family ties with India.
Experts say India’s connectivity strategy is driven by geopolitical imperatives alone, wherein economic benefits have not been accorded their due importance.
“India’s approach for infra development in north east is based on geopolitical reasons, while when it comes to China’s One Belt One Road the project aims at both geopolitical and economic advantages. This shows that India hasn’t done much home work before taking up these projects,” said Gulshan Sachdeva, professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.