Bangladesh government’s green signal to its national airlines ‘Biman’ to operate a Dhaka-Guwahati flight is welcome. As per the Biman proposal, the flight will take off on July 1. India-based Jet Airways also has plans to operate on the route. For North-east, a vibrant trade link with Bangladesh is important, especially in view of the problem of influx being faced by the remote part of India. The government of India has understood the root of the problem and has been engaged in empowering its neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal. This is the reason why border haats have also been opened in Meghalaya and Tripura.
The main hurdle before operating the flight is its economic viability. The export-import operations between Bangladesh and North-east have to gain pace to make such regular flights feasible. For that to happen, a mindset has to grow on both sides to travel across the border. It still remains a question whether the people of North-east are mentally prepared to do business with Bangladesh. Fraught with the mass influx of Bangladeshi migrants, legal or illegal, the people of the North-east are yet to get convinced by the ‘bridge-the-lost-connection’ slogan. Even the indigenous Muslim populations of the region are skeptic of extending an olive branch to Bangladesh. They are already fighting a battle against being branded as Bangladeshi migrants.
The massive potential of the North-east in tourism sector might lead to considerable traffic of Bangladeshi tourists to this region. However, the there will be no vice versa traffic due to the least known tourism potential of Bangladesh. The Muslim-dominated country comes to news whenever there is a military coup or bloody violence between ethnic tribes or government-opposition forces. The world’s eighth most populous nation is also best known for its poverty and facing the threat of being flooded by sea water due to global warming. However, the best thing Bangladesh can offer for traders of North-east is its huge population, which means market. To tap that market, there should be substantial growth in manufacturing industries, which is still at a nascent stage. In fact, Bangladeshi products have already flooded the market of the region before industries from here could even imagine of large-scale export to the country. The government should focus on creating an environment to prepare this region for trade ties with Bangladesh, as much as it did on improving the communication network. The people’s mindset should also change towards accepting Bangladesh as a friendly neighbour and potential market.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on January 31)