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The BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity: A Stocktaking

  • Sohini Bose
  • Sreeparna Banerjee
  • Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury

    Connectivity facilitates economic growth, social development, and people-to-people interactions. Recognising the imperative of connectivity in regional engagement, the Bay of Bengal Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) in 1997 declared ‘transport and communication’ as one of its sectors of cooperation. In 2018, BIMSTEC drew up its Master Plan for Transport Connectivity, and subsequently updated the plan at the fifth BIMSTEC Summit in 2022. As BIMSTEC continues to pursue regional connectivity, there is a need for a critical evaluation of the Master Plan to identify challenges in the existing transportation networks and outline strategies for course correction.


Sohini Bose, Sreeparna Banerjee and Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury, “The BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity: A Stocktaking,” ORF Occasional Paper No. 439, June 2024, Observer Research Foundation.


Functional channels and means of connectivity are cardinal to regional cooperation as they facilitate trade, attract investments, bolster tourism, foster people-to-people interactions, and encourage cultural exchanges. The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC),[a] upon its inception in 1997, prioritised ‘transport and communication’ as a fundamental area of cooperation. At the 5th BIMSTEC Summit in March 2022, the group reorganised its areas of cooperation and renamed ‘transport and communication’ as ‘connectivity’.[b],[1]

To promote seamless connectivity across the Bay of Bengal region, BIMSTEC adopted an updated version of the 2018 Top of Form

adopted the BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity in 2022, comprising 267 transport projects among which 216 are in transport infrastructure and 51 are in soft infrastructure. About 60 percent (134) of the transport infrastructure projects are in the planning stage and require financing. The estimated value of the 134 projects is US$89.9 billion.[2] Created in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the 2018 Master Plan for Transport Connectivity is a 10-year strategy and action plan. It consolidates the details of 141 short-, medium-, and long-term projects within the Bay of Bengal, spanning physical connectivity, trade facilitation, and human resource development at an estimated cost of US$47 billion.[3]

As BIMSTEC strives to forge better regional linkages, the plan demands a critical evaluation of its coverage of physical connectivity infrastructure which forms the bedrock of transport networks in the Bay. This paper has two objectives: to explore the reasons behind the creation of the Master Plan and the role of ADB; and to analyse the connectivity initiatives detailed in the Master Plan and identify the challenges that need to be addressed to enhance its effectiveness.[c]

Master Plan Rationale and ADB’s Role

In 2015, India, keen to strengthen ties with its eastern neighbourhood, rekindled connectivity initiatives in the region as lead country for the BIMSTEC sector on ‘transport and communication’. Following the failed SAARC Summit of 2016, India worked to prioritise the Bay of Bengal region and jumpstart connectivity initiatives. It hosted the BIMSTEC Leaders’ Retreat in Goa in October 2016,[4] where the leaders discussed, among others, drawing up a BIMSTEC framework agreement on Transit, Trans-shipment, and Movement of Vehicular Traffic and initiated talks on a BIMSTEC Agreement on Coastal Shipping.[5] The BTCWG was then tasked to develop the said Master Plan for Transport Connectivity with the technical assistance of the ADB.[6]

The ADB carried out a similar study for BIMSTEC in 2007, called the BIMSTEC Transport Infrastructure and Logistic Study (BTILS), which was updated and enhanced in 2014. As many of the projects identified in the BTILS had been completed or were in the process of completion, the 2018 Master Plan was considered necessary to understand the various initiatives with overlapping domains that had been undertaken in the region. Accordingly, the Master Plan addressed the BTILS concerns as well as various other missing infrastructure requirements in the region, outlining a long-term development program.

The ADB has long been engaged in efforts to craft comprehensive strategies for the Asia-Pacific region.[7] It assists its members and partners by providing loans, technical assistance, grants, and equity investments to promote social and economic development. It also maximises the development impact of its assistance by facilitating policy dialogues, providing advisory services, and mobilising financial resources through co-financing operations that tap official, commercial, and export credit sources.[8] In the Bay littoral countries, the ADB has been at the forefront of financing connectivity projects and undertaking evaluations.

As of 31 December 2022, ADB’s five largest shareholders are Japan and the United States (each with 15.6 percent of total shares), the People’s Republic of China (6.4 percent), India (6.3 percent), and Australia (5.8 percent).[9] These countries all have stakes in seeking influence and partnerships with the Bay littorals or BIMSTEC member countries, for three primary reasons.

Market and Resource Potential of Bay littorals: The countries outlining the Bay, particularly India and Bangladesh, have remarkable economic potential (see Figure 1). Estimates suggest that India and Bangladesh will be the 11th and 16th fastest growing economies in the world by 2024.[10] Another projection says that by 2030, India will become the 2nd largest market with 773 million consumers, Bangladesh 6th with 87 million consumers, and Thailand 9th with 58 million consumers.[11]

The Bay littoral countries are also valuable partners as they own substantial offshore oil and gas reserves. The Bay of Bengal is home to almost 40 percent of the world’s hydrocarbon reserves, with coal reserves of almost 324 billion tonnes, 664 million tonnes of petroleum, 99 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, 11 billion tonnes of biomass, 328 GW of hydropower (large), and renewable energy potential of more than 1,000 GW. This dimension attracts many countries to invest in its littorals as the need for energy resources increases to serve growing economies and bulging populations; China, for instance, has the world’s second highest population and is the world’s second largest economy.[12]

Fig. 1. GDP Growth Rate in BIMSTEC Countries

Source: Authors’ own, using data from BIMSTEC.[13]

Note: All GDP growth rates are for 2022 except Bhutan’s, which is from 2021. 

Need to secure vital shipping routes: The major powers are seeking partnerships with Bay littorals to maintain a foothold in this maritime space close to the Strait of Malacca, through where nearly 60 percent of global trade comprising important resources, particularly energy imports, move annually via shipping routes from the Middle East to South, Southeast, and East Asia.[14] More than 70 percent of China’s energy trade and 60 percent of its entire trade pass through the Strait of Malacca,[15] as does over 55 percent of India’s trade.[16] More than 80 percent of Japan’s oil imports from the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf also move through this chokepoint.[17] For Australia, the strait is important as it is used by most container and vehicle ships making their way from Europe.[d],[18] China’s activities in and around the Bay have generated apprehensions about maintaining freedom of navigation in these routes. Stakeholders are thus heightening their presence in the Bay to ensure an uninterrupted supply of fuels.

The strategic value of the Bay of Bengal: The Bay’s strategic significance attracts investments due to its advantageous location. It serves as a pivotal point in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)[e] and is a focal area for Indo-Pacific powers, largely to counter China’s ascent which challenges the established US-led order and shifts the power dynamics. Consequently, the US is intensifying efforts to bolster its influence in the Bay.[19]

Japan, aiming to tap into South and Southeast Asian markets dominated by China, promotes a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ as well to establish fair economic standards, thus increasing investments in the Bay littorals.[20] Similarly, Australia advocates for a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’, seeing the Bay’s stability as crucial for fostering stronger ties with its littoral states, to enhance its connectivity in the Indian Ocean.[21] For India, the Bay is its maritime neighbourhood, intertwined with its economic and security interests. Rivaling China, India is thus deepening ties with Bay littorals which includes the countries of Southeast Asia. This serves India’s Neighbourhood First, Act East, and Act Indo-Pacific policies as the Bay is a common maritime space between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), central to the country’s vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.[22]

It is impossible to utilise the Bay of Bengal region for any of the above purposes without the necessary connectivity and developmental infrastructure in the littoral countries, which is one of the primary reasons why intra-regional trade remains low. This has resulted in a scramble amongst the major powers to build connectivity supports in the Bay littorals.[23] Their interest has found resonance in the aspirations of these countries for better logistics which will elevate their economic prospects and ability to utilise their natural wealth. Accordingly, these countries have responded positively to the competing offers of the global powers and ADB has emerged as a notable actor in this sphere.

This mutual need for a more connected Bay of Bengal region manifests in the ADB’s consistent engagements in this geography and with BIMSTEC. On 24 February 2022, the organisation officially registered the ADB as one of its external partners via a Memorandum of Understanding, by which they agreed to collaborate in transport connectivity and financing; energy connectivity and trade; trade facilitation; tourism promotion; and economic corridor development.[24]

Connectivity Initiatives in the Master Plan and Continuing Concerns

The dense population count of the BIMSTEC region necessitates effective modes of conveyance to ensure the seamless flow of goods and people. Among these modes, road transport accounts for approximately 70 percent of freight transportation within the region.[25]

Meanwhile, the region’s railway networks extend over 77,000 route kilometers across member states such as Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.[26] The extensive railway systems serve as vital arteries for trade and transportation, albeit often operating independently,[f] highlighting the need for enhanced coordination and integration.

The region also benefits from maritime and air transport networks. Mainline and deep-sea container ships, along with feeder vessels, connect key ports of the region, facilitating the efficient movement of goods. Furthermore, the presence of established inland waterways and a network of over 350 flights connecting various destinations within the region underscores the importance of multi-modal transport connectivity.[27]

While there have been commendable strides in improving transport connectivity among BIMSTEC member states, significant gaps persist, emphasising the critical role of the BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity.

A. Road Connectivity

Roads serve as the primary transportation infrastructure in all member states. While India and Thailand boast extensive Asian Highway Class I[g] networks, the northeastern highways in India are still in the process of development. Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka have aspirations to establish Class I roads or networks, but Bhutan and Myanmar are expected to rely primarily on Class II and III roads, particularly for connectivity with neighbouring countries.[28]

Crucial issues include: (a) improving arterial road links that handle significant volumes of intra-BIMSTEC trade; (b) upgrading border links, including access to ports; and (c) coordinating road programs to enhance connectivity among member states. In terms of road transport, the necessity to transship cargo at international borders results in higher transaction costs, especially for the importing country. The development of well-coordinated transport mechanisms is crucial to increase transport efficiency and reduce trade costs. Adequate and continued funding is also required and to be made available to complete these projects in time.

A significant portion of the road networks listed in the BIMSTEC Master Plan slated for completion in 2022 and 2023 are still in progress (see Annexure 1). Various challenges have hindered the timely completion of some of these projects, such as the necessity for coordination among agencies in both sides of the border, challenging terrain, complications with land compensation, and security issues stemming from insurgencies in certain territories.[29]

Amid these challenges, it is crucial to examine two notable arterial road projects to link borders that are central to the regional connectivity vision. These projects, exemplifying the broader objectives of BIMSTEC, are facing a number of hurdles.

Challenges to Road Connectivity

 a. Impediments to IMT–TH

Perhaps the most significant endeavour in improving road connectivity in the BIMSTEC region is the ongoing India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway (IMT-TH) project, where Myanmar’s strategic location is pivotal. Myanmar stands out as the only country, aside from India, without whose participation land connectivity of all BIMSTEC members cannot be achieved. Once completed, the trilateral framework will extend to connect Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam (See Map 1).

Map 1: India–Myanmar–Thailand Trilateral Highway

Source: Created by Jaya Thakur, an independent researcher in Kolkata, using data from RIS Report[30]

The BIMSTEC transport infrastructure report identifies six road initiatives in Myanmar as priority projects,[31] among which five are integral components of the IMT-TH. These encompass three projects connecting Myanmar to Thailand (including the new border link Mae Sot/Myawaddy, Myawaddy–Kawkareik road, and the construction of Kawkareik–Eindu road) and two linking Myanmar to India (specifically, the Yagyi–Kalewa road improvement and the construction of bridges on the Kalewa–Tamu Road) still under construction.

The deteriorating security situation in Myanmar, particularly in the Chin and Sagaing regions where work on the project is stalled, threatens the implementation of the IMT-TH.[32] The country has been grappling with political instability and conflict in recent years, adversely impacting road transport safety. Incidents involving attacks on vehicles and disruptions to transport routes pose a substantial risk to businesses and travelers, especially post Operation 1027.[33]

 b. Sluggish Kathmandu–Terai Fast Track Road Project

The Kathmandu–Terai Fast Track Road Project aims to construct a 70.9-kilometer expressway that will significantly shorten the distance, time, and cost between Kathmandu and the Terai–Indian border.[h],[34]

Stretching from Khokana in Lalitpur to Nijgadh in Bara district via Makawanpur, the four-lane expressway was initially slated for completion by November 2024 but the deadline has been moved to April 2027.[35] The massive delay is related to issues of land acquisition, environmental impact assessments, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the clearance of trees.[36]

According to the revised Detailed Project Report (DPR) approved by the government in October 2022, the expressway’s length is at 70.9 km, featuring six tunnels totaling 10.055 km and 89 bridges.[37] The Nepalese Army, entrusted by the government of Nepal in 2017, is steadfast in ensuring the project’s timely completion, having already completed designs for 45 bridges in packages 1 to 5. However, the project is divided into 13 packages, with contracts for five still pending. Bidding selection takes at least six months.[38] Land acquisition at the Khokana-Bungamati entry points in Lalitpur, and in Makwanpur and Nijgadh, remains incomplete.[39] The army chief is uncertain about completing the project within the new deadline of 2027.

Analysts are of the view that the current government of Nepal must promptly streamline bureaucratic processes and robust project management practices to ensure the timely and transparent execution of the project.[40] The government’s efforts in cost reduction and project optimisation should be coupled with proactive measures to prevent delays, ensuring the expressway’s success as a vital national infrastructure.

c. Crucial Issues on the Road Networks

  1. Poor regional coordination and information exchange: The absence of a coordinated regional approach to road planning within the BIMSTEC region results in disjointed efforts, challenges in aligning national plans, and a lack of systematic information exchange among member states. This fragmented approach impedes the efficient allocation of resources and leads to suboptimal outcomes, hindering the realisation of a seamless road network.
  2. Differing technical standards and operational challenges: Variations in technical standards and specifications among member states can pose challenges to seamless road connectivity. Harmonising these standards is crucial to facilitate interoperability and efficient cross-border operations. Transport operations in most BIMSTEC member states predominantly rely on owner-drivers using older rigid units, often as part of cooperatives.[41] Notably, only in Thailand do large numbers of fleet operators utilise modern articulated transport vehicles—[i] a trend slowly spreading in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka, especially around ports handling 40-foot containers crucial for high-volume exports. There is a need to upgrade the fleet, but BIMSTEC’s influence on this issue may be limited and the solution lies in more private sector investment which could be encouraged by removing restrictions on foreign direct investment and improving roads. BIMSTEC could concentrate on facilitating transport, particularly by encouraging agreements among national governments for smoother through-transport arrangements.[42] Additionally, the inability of road transporters to cross borders is viewed as a trade restriction, escalating transport and transaction costs. These restrictions hinder the development of a competitive international road transport sector, leading to higher trade costs, border handling charges, and increased risk of damage and pilferage.[43]
  3. Security concerns and conflict areas: Ensuring the security of road networks, especially in border regions, is a paramount concern. Persistent insurgencies and conflict areas, as observed in regions like Myanmar, hinder the timely completion of projects. These security challenges not only compromise the safety of transportation but also impede the development of efficient transport routes critical for regional connectivity and economic growth. Addressing these security concerns becomes imperative for fostering a stable and conducive environment for the successful functioning of road and railway networks in conflict-prone areas.

    B. Railway Connectivity

    Railway networks contribute to economic development by facilitating the efficient movement of goods and people. Within the BIMSTEC region, where road congestion and infrastructure limitations impede transportation, railways offer a reliable and cost-effective alternative for freight and passenger transport.

    The Master Plan underscores the importance of improving rail connectivity among member states, with a particular focus on key ports, dry ports, and land borders. This strategic approach aims to bolster intraregional trade while fostering economic and social development in inland regions. Recognising the diverse needs within the BIMSTEC community, the Plan takes a tailored approach to address the specific connectivity requirements of landlocked member states, supporting the exploration of viable modal alternatives. (See Annexure 2 for a list of Railway connectivity projects identified in the Master Plan and their current status.)

    a. BBIN in focus

    There are five operational broad gauge connectivity routes linking India with Bangladesh, all originating from West Bengal in India.[j]  Three-passenger trains play a pivotal role in facilitating people-to-people connections: the Kolkata-Dhaka Maitree Express, Kolkata-Khulna Bandhan Express, and New Jalpaiguri-Dhaka Mitali Express.

    In alignment with India’s ‘Act East’ and ‘Neighbourhood First’ policies, the inauguration of the Akhaura-Agartala cross-border rail link under the BIMSTEC Master Plan was a milestone of 2023. This rail link reduces the travel distances from India’s Northeastern states and southern parts of Assam to Kolkata.[k],[44]

    Another notable development in cross-border rail connectivity is the operational segment of the Jaynagar-Bijalpura-Bardibas rail line, connecting India and Nepal. The Kurtha-Bijalpura line, inaugurated on July 2023, spans 17.3 kilometers.[45] Efforts are underway for the third phase, extending the rail line from Bijalpura to Bardibas, with ongoing land acquisition preparations.[46]

    In pursuit of enhanced connectivity, Bangladesh envisions a rail link with Bhutan, utilising the Chilahati-Haldibari rail connection and the Mitali Express to facilitate the direct transportation of construction materials to Bhutan.[47]

    b. Overarching issues related to railway connectivity

    1. Inadequate regional strategy and coordination: The lack of a unified regional strategy for railway planning in the BIMSTEC area leads to fragmented initiatives, difficulties in harmonising individual country plans, and limited sharing of systematic information among member nations. This fragmented strategy hampers effective resource allocation and results in less-than-optimal results, obstructing the achievement of an interconnected railway network.
    2. Infrastructure gaps and modernisation needs: The BIMSTEC nations grapple with infrastructure gaps, particularly within their rail networks, characterised by outdated systems, insufficient capacity, and maintenance challenges.[48] These shortcomings hamper the movement of goods and people across borders, necessitating urgent modernisation efforts to enhance efficiency and safety in railway operations. One glaring example is the predicament faced by Myanmar Railways (MR), which has encountered substantial challenges in adapting to increasing demands. Close to three decades ago, MR held a formidable 44 percent share in the passenger market and a 14 percent share in the freight market. However, by 2015, these figures dwindled to a mere 10 percent for passengers and 1.5 percent for commercial freight. The stark decline in market presence signals a critical situation, raising concerns about the potential cessation of MR's operations by 2025.[49]

    The complex and uncertain political landscape in Myanmar exacerbates the challenges, impeding progress toward the modernisation of rail infrastructure. The political instability hampers the initiation of modernisation efforts and raises questions about the successful completion of any ongoing or proposed projects. Addressing the plight of Myanmar Railways requires a comprehensive modernisation strategy and a stable political environment that fosters long-term planning and sustainable development.

    Addressing these issues requires a concerted effort from BIMSTEC member states to foster regional cooperation, establish communication channels, harmonise technical standards, and develop a shared vision for the future of railway connectivity in the region.

    c. Port and Maritime Connectivity[l]

    Most of the international trade of BIMSTEC countries, except Nepal and Bhutan, is carried out via maritime routes facilitated by seaports.[m],[50],[51] Under the BIMSTEC Master Plan, port connectivity is far more complicated than rail and road, as ports differ in their physical infrastructure, layouts, cargo, services provided, and container handling performance.[52] Furthermore, as ports are designed to serve their home country and immediate hinterland, these, especially ones that are located in proximity to one another, compete and are not slated for regional cooperation.

    A case in point is India’s Northeast, which despite being closer to the Port of Chattogram in Bangladesh, transports its cargo through India’s Kolkata Port, which lies at a greater distance. Similarly, although the port of Kolkata is much closer to western Bangladesh, its merchants prefer the port of Chattogram, to avoid foreign country transit.[53] However, changing geopolitical circumstances which have brought the Bay of Bengal into the limelight of strategic attention and motivated its littoral countries towards increased mutual engagement via trade and collaborative ventures, have made it necessary to evolve regional maritime connectivity.

    The Master Plan explains that there are two concerns about maritime ports in the Bay that have regional ramifications: concerns about the container handling performance at some of the key ports; and problems with access to deeper water for accommodating larger vessels.[54] The Master Plan also deliberates upon the implementation of regional coastal shipping. However, there are more dimensions to these concerns and coastal shipping than what has been discussed in the Master Plan. These include issues that indirectly affect the container handling capacities of key ports around the Bay; developmental challenges faced by deep seaports; and logistical impediments in the implementation of coastal shipping. These issues gain additional significance as the BIMSTEC Agreement on Maritime Transport and Connectivity is set to be signed at the regional forum’s Sixth Summit Meeting.

    a. Challenges to efficiency at key ports

    There are 15 major ports around the Bay’s coastal arc. Six major ports cover India’s eastern seaboard, amongst which four are most significant: the Kolkata Port (Shyamaprasad Mookherjee Port comprising Kolkata and Haldia Dock), as it not only serves India but also offers transit facilities to its hinterland countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal; the Paradip Port (Odisha), which registers the highest traffic on the east coast; Visakhapatnam Port (Andhra Pradesh), a potential transshipment port popular for its reliability; and Chennai Port (Tamil Nadu), which caters to a wide range of cargo, especially automobiles.

    In Bangladesh, the principal port is the Port of Chattogram, the only port in the Bay, ranking 67th in the Lloyd’s list of 100 ports of the world (2021) in terms of traffic.[55] Its other port is Mongla, gradually gaining popularity after Chattogram. The Port of Yangon is the busiest in Myanmar, catering to the Bay’s shipping routes. Both Sri Lanka and Thailand have ports in the Bay of Bengal but these are yet to gain traction. The trade of these countries continues to be centred around the Port of Laem Chabang on the Gulf of Thailand and the Port of Colombo on the Indian Ocean. Therefore, although these ports are located in BIMSTEC countries, they do not belong to the Bay of Bengal. Nonetheless, their proximity makes them relevant to the region. (See Map 2).

    Map 2: Major Ports and Deep-Sea Ports of BIMSTEC Countries in the Bay

    Source: The map has been created by Jaya Thakur, an independent researcher in Kolkata, India.

    Note: As per the International Hydrographic Organisation, the Palk Strait and Sri Lanka’s entire eastern coastline is the Bay of Bengal’s western delimitation. Therefore, Sri Lanka does not lie entirely in the Bay, but the ports on its western coast, particularly Colombo which is a transshipment hub, are important for this maritime space.

    The following paragraphs outline the most critical issues that diminish their efficiency.

    1. Shallow depths: Ports on the northern deltaic coast of the Bay are riverine; Kolkata Port with its Kolkata Dock and Haldia Dock on Rivers Hooghly and Haldi, respectively; Mongla Port at the confluence of the Rivers Mongla and Prasur; and Chattogram Port on the River Karnaphuli. Throughout the year, but especially during the monsoon season, these ports experience heavy siltation, which reduces their low drafts and limits their ability to berth large vessels. Naturally, a substantial portion of their revenue goes into dredging, to keep the river channels navigable as otherwise it would add to operational costs and delays in cargo movement.[56] Kolkata Port, for example, spends INR350-400 crores annually on dredging.[57]
    2. Unpredictability of tides: Being riverine ports, the Ports of Kolkata, Mongla, and Chattogram and the Port of Yangon, on the River Yangon in Myanmar, suffer from the consequences of erratic tidal currents. During low tide, the shallow drafts of the ports are further reduced, as in the Mongla Port, where the draft reduces from 8.5-6m to almost 4.5 meters. Not only does this compromise their optimal usability[58] but inaccuracies in tidal forecasts disrupt the scheduled berthing of ships. Thus, vessels prefer ports with more predictability such as the port of Visakhapatnam, which is built on a natural harbour, enabling it to maintain a steady routine.
    3. iii. Inadequacy of space: In multiple ports around the Bay, a dearth of space prevents efficient functionality. In the Kolkata port, only 30-40 percent of the containers that are used in imports are reused for exports, while the rest are dumped in adjacent plots, leading to the black marketing of space.[59] In Chattogram, importers often leave their goods inside the port for long periods as the rent is low; this creates congestion.[60] Reports on the Colombo port suggest that “a one-day idle stay of a ship on the sea makes…a loss of about $20,000.”[61]
    4. City congestion: Ports located in urban metropolises, have to contend with heavy city traffic which hinders their cargo movement such as the Chattogram Port[62] and two of the oldest ports in India; the Kolkata Port[63] and the Chennai Port.[64] For the Kolkata Port, this means losing cargo to the nearby upcoming, Mongla Port of Bangladesh. For the Chennai port, this has added to its competition from nearby India ports of Kamarajar and Kattupalli, serving the same hinterland.[65] Yangon Port also suffers from congestion in Yangon City.[66] While these issues are internal to the ports, they compromise the prospect of regional maritime transport and therefore need to be considered by BIMSTEC.

    b. Difficulties in developing deep-sea ports

    The Master Plan notes that contrary to the popular opinion that deep-sea ports are needed to accommodate mega-container vessels requiring 16 m draft, the ports around the Bay do not attract such vessels as the volume of trade is usually small. It is only the Port of Colombo that berths these ships as a transshipment hub located close to one of the world’s busiest sea lanes of communication, i.e., the East-West shipping route. In the Bay of Bengal, the demand for deep-sea ports is to handle large feeder vessels that carry substantial volumes of bulk cargo such as oil, fuel, gas, grain, and steel.[67] The increasing trade volumes of the Bay littorals have created a demand for deep-sea ports north of the Bay and accordingly, BIMSTEC has committed to promoting their development.[68] There are, however, a number of complications that hinder their construction.

    i. Issues in India and Bangladesh

    In India, the Central government has chosen Sagar Islands in West Bengal for a deep-sea port that will handle the large vessels headed for the Kolkata Port.[69] However, the decision of the West Bengal state government to develop a deep-sea port at Tajpur instead, stalled the project.[70] In 2022, the responsibility to build the Tajpur Port was given to the Adani Group; this is currently awaiting completion. However, a report by US short-seller Hindenburg Research raised questions about the towering debts of the Adani conglomerate and accused it of using offshore entities in tax havens to manipulate its companies.[71]

    India has also long envisaged the creation of a transshipment port, in the Andaman Nicobar Islands, to reduce its dependence on external transshipment. The proposed project involves cutting down over 852,000 trees, impacting diverse flora, fauna, and marine and terrestrial biodiversity, including endangered species.[72] Despite opposition from environmentalists, wildlife experts, and civil society organisations, the project continues, raising concerns about its environmental impact. The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) has recommended measures like excluding key nesting sites and reducing road width to mitigate biodiversity loss. Concerns also remain regarding seismic risks and deforestation.[73]

    The government has chosen the Great Nicobar Island for the project worth INR 41,000 crores, as it does not come under the Tribal Act. The construction of the port is scheduled to be completed by 2028. The process demands cautiousness about environmental and tribal safety, while being sufficiently advanced to survive the competition with the nearby Ports of Colombo, Singapore, and Klang in Malaysia.[74]

    In Bangladesh, the deep-sea port of Matarbari is being developed with investments from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to dock large-draught containers and help in transshipment.[75] Environmental safety, however, would need to be considered in this project.[76] For example, a joint report on air pollution by Greenpeace Japan and Southeast Asia predicts that the Matarbari power project would lead to the loss of almost 14,000 lives within 30 years of its operation.[77] The proximity of the Payra deep-sea port in Bangladesh to the ecologically fragile Sundarbans is also complicating its completion.[78]

     ii. Concerns in Myanmar and Thailand

    In Myanmar, multiple deep-sea ports are facing a wide range of issues. The Sittwe deep-water port built with India’s investment cannot be optimally utilised until the Kaladan Multi-Modal Project, of which it is a part, is completed. However, this seems unlikely given political instability in Myanmar.[79] The Kyaukphyu deep-sea port financed by China is also facing objections from the local fisherfolk, who claim that its construction will deplete fish stocks and block their access to important water bodies.[80] The Thilawa deep-sea port, being built by Japan, is also facing local objections over environmental concerns.[81] At the Dawei deep-sea port, the Myanmar government has dismissed the Thai construction company due to their slow progress and inability to pay the concession fee. As Myanmar’s other partner in developing the Dawei Special Economic Zone, the Japanese government, through JICA, has now taken over the project, the initial investments of which amount to 200 billion Japanese Yen or US$1.83 billion. However, it has decided not to play an active role until the initial developments are over.[82]

    In Thailand, Ranong is the only deep-sea port on the Bay of Bengal. Although it is operational, attempts to generate coastal shipping between Ranong and Chattogram port are yet to take off as the Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs is still deliberating its scope.[83] (See Annexure 4.)

    iii. Coastal Shipping and its Challenges

    The Master Plan suggests that coastal shipping can benefit the region given the continuity of the Bay’s semi-circular coastline. However, coastal shipping agreements are yet to be formulated between most of the littoral countries except for India and Bangladesh.[n] Commodities for trade also need to be identified. Moreover, although coastal shipping applies to 20 nautical miles from the shore, the routes will need to be rethought as those suggested by Thailand from the Ports of Ranong to Chennai and Colombo far exceed the limit (See Map 3).[84] The lack of separate berthing facilities and inadequate bulk cargo handling facilities at ports around the Bay also need to be taken into account, as these impede coastal shipping.[85] Despite these challenges, BIMSTEC must continue cultivating coastal shipping where it is possible, as it is an economical and eco-friendly means of facilitating regional maritime connectivity. In places where it is not feasible, it needs to consider other options for maritime transport, such as short-sea shipping.[o] (See Annexure 5.)

    Map 3: Proposed Coastal Shipping Routes in the Bay



    Source: Created by Jaya Thakur, an independent researcher in Kolkata, using data from the BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity.[86]

    As intra-regional trade increases, BIMSTEC needs to be aware of issues thwarting port efficiency and development, although such issues often lie beyond its jurisdiction as its charter prevents it from engaging in internal matters concerning member states. However, a holistic understanding will help it in undertaking empirically effective strategies and policies. 

    d. Inland Waterways

    As the Sunderban Delta shared between India and Bangladesh forms a large portion of the Bay of Bengal’s northern hinterland, the labyrinth of rivers crisscrossing it forms a crucial aspect of connectivity in the region. The Master Plan devotes an entire section to exploring riverine networks, presenting two contrasting views on the utility of these waterways. The first conforms to the idea that the rivers will be useful in improving the regional transport system within BIMSTEC. The second suggests that waterways are used for domestic needs serving specific markets and are restricted to lighterage operations and the carriage of low-value products, such as aggregates and some cereals and rice. Therefore, they may not be “sufficiently encompassing of overall transport activities in the member states to support the need for individual modal policies and strategies.”[87]

    The second view is increasingly being challenged as India and Bangladesh continue undertaking steps to leverage their vast network of 54 transboundary rivers. In 1972, the two countries signed a Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWT&T) (See Map 4) for mutually beneficial arrangements on the use of waterways for bilateral commerce and passage of goods between two places in one country and to third countries through the territory of the other under mutually agreed terms. The Protocol was renewed in 2015 with a clause for automatic renewal every five years.[88]

    Map 4: India-Bangladesh Protocol Routes (IBP)


    Source: Summary of the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade between Bangladesh and India[89]

    In 2020, a second addendum was incorporated into the Agreement, expanding protocol routes, including new ones, and declaring new Ports of Call to facilitate trade between the two countries. For example, the inclusion of the Sonamura- Daudkhandi stretch of Gumti river (93 Km) as IBP route No. 9 & 10 will improve the connectivity of Tripura and its adjoining states with the financial centres in India and Bangladesh and benefit the hinterland of both countries by connecting all existing IBP routes from 1 to 8. The operationalisation of the Rajshahi-Dhulian-Rajshahi Route and its extension up to Aricha will help the transportation cost of stone chips/aggregate to the northern part of Bangladesh, and thus boost infrastructural development. It will also decongest the Land Custom Stations on both sides.

    The new Ports of Call will ease the loading and unloading of cargo transported on the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route and also trigger the economic development of the new locations and their hinterland. For instance, the inclusion of Jogigopha in India (where a Multimodal Logistics Park is proposed to be established) and Bahadurabad in Bangladesh as the new Port of Call will provide connectivity to Meghalaya, Assam in India as well as the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. The Addendum thus increased the Protocol Routes from 8 to 10 and the Ports of Call from 6 to 11 in each county, along with an Extended Port of Call in both India and Bangladesh (See Table 1).[90]

    Table 1: India-Bangladesh Protocol Routes
    Routes Ports of Call
    India Bangladesh
    Kolkata-Chandpur-Pandu-Silghat-Kolkata Kolkata (Extended Port of Call: Tribeni) Narayanganj (Extended Port of Call: Ghorasal)
    Kolkata-Chandpur-Karimganj-Kolkata Haldia Khulna
    Silghat-Pandu-Ashuganj-Karimganj-Pandu-Silghat Karimganj (Extended Port of Call: Badarpur) Mongla
    Rajshahi-Dhulian-Rajshahi Pandu Sirajganj
    Kalkata-Chandpur-Ashuganj(By waterways)-Akhaura-Agartala(By road) Silghat Ashuganj
    Dhubri Pangaon (Extended Port of Call: Muktarpur)
    Additions under the Second Addendum
    Sonamura- Daudkhandi stretch of Gumti river Rajshahi Dhulian
    Rajshahi-Dhulian-Rajshahi Sultanganj Maia
    Kolaghat in India has been added to Routes (1) & (2) Kolkata-Shilghat-Kolkata and Routes (3) & (4) [Kolkata-Karimganj-Kolkata. Chilmari Kolaghat
    Badarpur in India and Ghorasal in Bangladesh has been added to Routes (3) & (4) Kolkata-Karimganj-Kolkata and Routes (7) & (8) [Karimganj-Shilghat-Karimganj. Daudkandi Sonamura
    Bahadurabad Jogighopa

    Source: Authors’ own, using data from Bangladesh-India PIWTT[91] and the Second Addendum on PIWTT.[92]

    a. Protocol Routes

    The Protocol routes have three-fold advantages:

    1. Sustainable means of trade: Waterways are a relatively economical and eco-friendly mode of trade and connectivity compared to road and rail networks. A 200‐ton vessel could replace 20 trucks with a 10‐ton capacity and reduce fuel use and carbon emissions.[93] It will therefore not only help both countries attain Target 9.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals but also benefit bilateral trade. Currently, India is Bangladesh’s largest trading partner in South Asia, and vice versa. Increasing commerce with Bangladesh will also help India realise aspects of its Act East, Act Indo-Pacific, and Neighbourhood First policies.
    2. Benefits for India’s Northeast: As many of the India-Bangladesh transboundary rivers traverse India’s Northeast, the Protocol Routes connect this territory better with both countries and provide it convenient access to the sea. The prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, has offered the use of these ports to India for the development of Assam and Tripura. The Northeast has an estimated 1,800 km of navigable river routes of which the main rivers are the Brahmaputra, Teesta, and Barak. Cargo moved through these routes includes tea, cement, coal, fly ash, limestone, petroleum, bitumen, and food grains. The beginning of trade between Chilmari (Bangladesh) and Dhubri (India) using shallow draft mechanised vessels as per the Second Addendum, will allow the export of stone chips and other Bhutanese and Northeast cargo to Bangladesh, enhancing its local economy and that of lower Assam.[94]
    3. Facilitation of third-country overseas trade: If connected with landlocked Nepal and Bhutan, the river routes as a part of larger multimodal networks will facilitate overseas commerce and promote third-country trade. Nepal will benefit from the intermodal terminal at Kalughat and the multimodal terminals at Sahibganj and Haldia, under India’s Jal Marg Vikas Project for the efficient movement of cargo from third countries. The 2019 Nepal-India Transit Treaty Review meeting finalised the Standard of Procedure for Nepal to use three inland waterway routes on the river Ganga. Bhutan entered into a transit agreement with Bangladesh in 2017 to use its waterways and access the seaports of Mongla and Chattogram. This would reduce Bhutan’s transportation costs significantly. The inclusion of Dhubri and Jogigopha (less than 60 km from the Bhutan border) as ports of call in India has also provided better handling facilities for cargo originating in Bhutan.[95] To further strengthen ties with Southeast Asia, India is trying to connect its Haldia Dock with Myanmar’s Sittwe Port, situated at the mouth of the Kaladan River. The Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transport Project envisions road transport of goods from Mizoram (India) to Paletwa in Myanmar, and thereafter river transport along the Kaladan River to Sittwe, and finally, from Sittwe to Haldia by sea through coastal shipping.[96] It remains incomplete, however.

      Convinced of the utility of inland waterways in facilitating regional connectivity, BIMSTEC encourages member states to develop sustainable, economically viable inland water transport between them. At the Asian Confluence River Conclave in 2022, then BIMSTEC Secretary General Tenzin Lekphell stressed the presence of large rivers in the region and the vital role of inland water transport in enhancing regional connectivity.[97] Projects are underway in the BIMSTEC countries for the development of inland water transport (See Annexure 6).

    b. Pressing Issues

    Despite the potential for the development of inland water transport, multiple issues need to be addressed for their optimal utilisation. As the Master Plan highlights; maintenance of a least available draft of 3 m on core sections of the waterway is required, as is the installation of nighttime navigation aids; there is a need for more flexibility in terms of designated routes, jetties, and disembarkation points regarding cross-border tourism between Bangladesh and India; stretches and commodities with trade potential need to be identified between (and within) member states; design vessels; upgrade river vessels to river-sea vessels, given the deltaic topography; develop full-fledged border facilities at ferry and entry and exit points along routes designated under the IBP; improve inter-agency and international cooperation; undertake hydro morphological studies of the navigable rivers, and develop infrastructure and navigable channels based on it.

    Beyond the Master Plan’s considerations, other challenges have led to low traffic volumes through the Protocol Routes. There is poor navigability, especially in the upper stretches of the rivers; an over‐reliance on selected products, project‐based cargo, and Over Dimensional Cargo for inter‐country and transit trade; non-availability of suitably sized vessels; unpredictability in the time taken for transportation; and powerful truck lobbies.[98] These concerns will have to be addressed for inland water transport and trade to prosper in the region.

     E. Multimodal Component

    Adopting dry ports or Inland Container Depots (ICDs) is an effective means to utilise inexpensive transportation modes. Additionally, more ambitious initiatives like establishing a multinational, multimodal transit transport corridor, such as the connection between mainland India, Myanmar, and North East India, can further contribute to seamless connectivity within the region. Several projects are proposed and conceptualised in the Master Plan with a tentative timeline. However, the discrepancy between the timetable presented in the BIMSTEC Master Plan and the current progress is quite pronounced (See Annexure 6).

    Persisting Bottlenecks

    Several factors, such as financial constraints, regulatory hurdles, lack of coordination, political issues, or technical difficulties have combined to delay the listed projects in the Master Plan.

    1. Delay in setting up ICD Dhirasram: Among the several names listed in the planned projects, following years of delays since 2013 due to funding issues, the construction of Gazipur's Dhirasram, the largest inland container depot (ICD) in Bangladesh, is set to commence in 2024, though the main details are yet to be worked out. The Bangladesh government has secured financing for the project, estimated to cost around US$ 774.56 million. Kamalapur ICD, the sole ICD with a rail link, is experiencing congestion both within its premises and on the surrounding roads.[99] To alleviate this issue, the Dhirasram ICD project aims to enhance container transport capacity through rail. According to an ADB report, the strategic location of Dhirasram ICD near Dhaka and along the Dhaka-Chattogram rail corridor provides it with significant advantages to becoming a regional trade logistics hub.[100] This project holds fundamental importance in facilitating trade between Bangladesh and India. Road transport dominates bilateral trade, accounting for approximately 70 percent of the total weight.[101] Rail transport has a minimal share, and there is a lack of regular operation of international container freight trains. To promote trade, Bangladesh and India are actively promoting the establishment of inter-country international container trains.
    2. Political instability in Myanmar: The political turbulence in Myanmar has had a substantial impact on ongoing connectivity projects, particularly the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway (IMT-TH), a pivotal initiative for BIMSTEC's land connectivity. Myanmar's strategic location plays a crucial role in linking these three nations, but persistent conflicts present challenges to road transport safety and the overall feasibility of such projects.

    Map 5: Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project

    Source: The map has been created by Jaya Thakur, an independent researcher in Kolkata, using data from The Print[102]

    For the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project, the opening of Sittwe Port creates a vital corridor for efficient goods movement to India's Northeast region. However, completing the road section from Paletwa in Myanmar to Zorinpui in India is crucial to comprehensively utilise the Kaladan project's multimodal element. Obstacles are impeding progress, however. Challenges include poor coordination among agencies on both sides of the border, rugged terrain, issues with land compensation, and security concerns due to regional insurgency. The COVID-19 pandemic and political turmoil resulting from the 2021 coup in Myanmar have compounded the difficulties. The Chin State, near which the construction work is ongoing, is currently declared as a no-safe zone, and thus, continuing work on the road stretch will remain a challenge for an uncertain period.

    While the Sittwe port holds significant potential for facilitating trade with Myanmar, particularly in transporting goods, gas, or oil to the Northeast, its effectiveness as a cost-effective regular transportation route is yet to be determined.[103] This uncertainty arises mainly from the projected high costs involved in frequent bulk breaking and trans-shipment activities. Furthermore, the operationalisation of the Paletwa terminal is contingent upon the completion of maintenance dredging along the Kaladan River, connecting Sittwe and Paletwa. Only when the dredging is complete will cargo vessels solely transport goods to the Sittwe port, limiting the operational scope of the Paletwa terminal.

     c. Pending MVA Agreement: Once the projects are completed, a Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA)—which allows vehicles of signatory countries to move freely in one another’s territory—will also be crucial for the cross-border movement of goods and people. Such agreements have been drafted, one between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal (BBIN) and another between India, Myanmar, and Thailand, but their signing is held up by concerns from both Bhutan and Thailand. Bhutan has backed out of the BBIN MVA, citing environmental concerns over the likely increase in road traffic. (A BIMSTEC MVA is also planned, but Bhutan may object to it as well for similar reasons.) Thailand fears that the MVA could put local players at a disadvantage.[104] For their part, Bangladesh, India, and Nepal are expected to implement their MVA soon.[105]

     d. Funding concerns: In addition to challenges stemming from political instability and coordination issues, funding constraints have also impeded the progress of regional projects. To tackle these obstacles and bolster regional development, BIMSTEC aims to establish the BIMSTEC Development Fund (BDF), focusing on cross-border transport infrastructure. Aligned with ASEAN’s and SAARC’s frameworks, the BDF will kickstart with initial capital injections from member states, further supported by voluntary contributions.[106] It will prioritise projects enhancing transport connectivity within the BIMSTEC region, seeking to offer efficient, long-term financing and attract private-sector involvement. Nonetheless, considering the varied economic landscapes of member nations, the BDF must ensure equitable access to funding and project benefits. Maintaining inclusivity and relevance across member states is pivotal for the BDF's success in driving sustainable development and fostering regional cooperation within the BIMSTEC framework. No progress has been made on the creation of the BDF so far.


    The BIMSTEC region is grappling with connectivity issues such as inadequate road and rail networks, deficient last-mile links, and cumbersome customs and clearance procedures, all of which hinder trade and regional integration. Many of its key ports suffer inefficiencies and developmental challenges which hinder their optimal usage, and riverine routes are yet to be fully developed. Physical infrastructure plays a pivotal role in enhancing connectivity and trade and fostering people-to-people interactions. As the Bay of Bengal region increasingly becomes a focal point for the involvement of external powers, many of these countries are prioritising the establishment of new physical networks in the Bay littoral countries.

    While numerous agreements are in the works to improve regional communication and infrastructure, the successful implementation of these agreements and the development of mechanisms to facilitate connectivity depends on the commitment of the member countries. Without a genuine intent to act, BIMSTEC could fail to achieve tangible progress in its goals.

    Critics may argue that the BIMSTEC Master Plan is not a plan of action for BIMSTEC but rather an assessment of the connectivity projects being undertaken in the Bay of Bengal region. However, it performs the important task of providing a ready reckoner of the needs and challenges of the region in terms of connectivity and indicates areas that need action. To add to its credibility, in December 2023, the ADB released a financing strategy for transport infrastructure in BIMSTEC countries. The report analyses current financing status, legal frameworks, and options, and identifies challenges and opportunities. It proposes feasible recommendations for establishing a comprehensive financing framework, drawing on international best practices, for the realisation of regional transport projects.[107]

    In the years ahead, there is likely to be a dynamic interplay of interests involving China’s Belt and Road Initiative and India’s Act East policy in the Bay of Bengal region. It is incumbent upon BIMSTEC to harness the current political will of its member nations to re-engage with one another and effectively navigate this landscape to contribute more significantly to regional convergence. The Bay region would benefit greatly from recapturing the interconnectedness it once enjoyed.[108] Beyond benefitting the region, the expansion and deepening of connectivity among the BIMSTEC countries are essential for the organisation itself to survive as a functional and vibrant platform.

    Sohini Bose is Associate Fellow, Strategic Studies Programme, ORF.

    Sreeparna Banerjee is Junior Fellow, Strategic Studies Programme, ORF.

    Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury is Senior Fellow, Strategic Studies Programme, ORF.

    The authors thank Rudrendra Tandon, India’s Ambassador to Afghanistan and former Additional Secretary, BIMSTEC & SAARC Division, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, for his valuable insights. They are also grateful to officials from the Maritime Promotion Division, Marine Department, Ministry of Transport, Government of Thailand; the Consulate General of Thailand in Kolkata; Zafar Alam, Joint Secretary, Member (Admin and Planning), Chattogram Port Authority, Government of Bangladesh; and Rohan Masakorala, CEO of Shippers' Academy Colombo, Sri Lanka, for their contributions in enhancing this study.


    The following are the physical connectivity projects identified by the BIMSTEC Master Plan and a review of their current status.

    Annexure 1: Projects on Road Connectivity

    Border Road Connectivity Projects* between BIMSTEC nations
    Description Funding Organisation (tentative) Amount (in USD million) Estimated completion year Current Status
    India and Bhutan  
    Road from Gelephu (Bhutan) to Samthaibari (near Hapachara in Assam) National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation 117 2021 Work is ongoing
    Construction of the Samrang Jomotsangkha section (58 km) of Bhutan’s East-West Highway. Will improve accessibility along Bhutan’s southern border with India Government of India under its Project tied assistance 21 2023 Work is ongoing
    Construction of the Lhamoizhingkha-Sarpang section of the Southern East West Highway (75 km, including 14 bridges) Yet to be finalised 2028 No information available
    India and Bangladesh  
    Upgrading of NH 8 Silchar– Agartala–Sabroom (connecting Assam and Tripura) and NH 37 along with the Karimganj– Sutrakhandispur section up to the India-Bangladesh border National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation, along with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) 610 2023 Work is ongoing
    Four-laning of the Rangpur to Burimari Highway (128 km) in Bangladesh which connects it with Changrabandha (India) and Bhutan Asian Development Bank (ADB) 960 2023 Work to start from 2024
    Two-laning of the road from Dudhanai on the Assam– Meghalaya border to Dalu on the Meghalaya-Bangladesh border, via Bagmara, NH 217 JICA 227 2022 No information available
    Improving NH 208 between Teliamura and Harina (158 km) in Tripura JICA 285 2022 Work is ongoing
    Upgrading road between Kolkata and Bongaon near Petrapole on the India-Bangladesh border Government of India and JICA 130 2022 Work is ongoing
    Two-laning of the alternative route between Silchar and Guwahati via Harangajao Thuruk in Assam National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation 452 2022 Work is ongoing
    Developing link roads between Srirampu–Dhubri and Phulbari in Assam with Tura in Meghalaya with a new bridge across the Brahmaputra River on NH 127B JICA 530 2023 Work is ongoing
    Improving the Manu Simlung section of NH 108  in Tripura JICA 170 2022 Work is ongoing
    Improving NH 217 between Tura and Dalu and extending it to the India-Bangladesh border JICA 79 2020 55 percent of the road is complete
    Improving the Shillong-Dawki road in Meghalaya, including the Dawki bridge on the India-Bangladesh border JICA 31 2023 Technical experts are reviwing road conditions
    Building a new bridge over the Feni River at Sabroom in southern Tripura, connecting India and Bangladesh JICA 13 2020 Work is ongoing
    Building the Khowai–Agartala link road National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Government of India 85 2023 Construction has been fast-tracked by the Union transport ministry.
    Improving sections of NH 512 between the 82.4 km and 99.5 km mark, and between 104.2 km and 106.6 km mark in Dakshin Dinajpur, West Bengal National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation 21 2022 Work to begin soon
    Four-laning of the Bhanga– Bhatiapara-Kalna–Lohagora– Narail-Jashore–Benapole Highway (135 km) in Bangladesh Indian Line of Credit 1,100 2024 Work is ongoing
    India and Myanmar  
    Upgrading the road from Dimapur (Nagaland) to Maram (northern Manipur) via Peren National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation 360 2023 Delay due to land acquisition issues
    Four-laning of the Imphal–Moirang highway, in Manipur ADB 180 2022 No information available.
    Four-laning of the stretches from Kohima to Kedima (Nagaland), and Kromg to Imphal (Manipur) of NH 39 ADB 280 2023 No information available.
    Upgrading Ukhrul–Tolloi–Tadubi road in Manipur ADB and National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation 230 2023 Work is ongoing
    Ukhrul–Jessami, NH 202 in Manipur ADB 230 2023 Repair work is ongoing
    Upgrading Jiribam–Tipaimukh road in Manipur ADB 210 2023 Repair work is ongoing
    Aizawl–Tuipang road, connecting with the Kaladan Multimodal Transport Corridor JICA 946 2023 98 percent of work has been completed.
    Improvement of the Imphal Kangchup–Tamenglong Tousem (all in Manipur) to Haflong (Assam) road National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation and ADB 184 2023 No information available.
    Construction of an alternative highway to Gangtok (Sikkim) from Bagrakot and Kafer (West Bengal) National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation 48 2020 No information available.
    Improvement of roads from Paletwa to Kaletwa and from Kaletwa to Zorinpui on the border between Chin State, Myanmar and Mizoram, as part of the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport project Government of India (under its development assistance) 484[109] 2023 Project is under construction.
    India- Myanmar- Thailand Trilateral Highway: Improvement of the 120.74 km stretch from Kalewa-Yagyi in the Sagain region Construction of 69 bridges along the approach road to the highway on the 149.70 km Tamu-Kyigone- Kalewa (TKK) stretch   Government of India (under its development assistance) 1700[110] 2023 Imphal-Moreh portion to be completed by the end of 2023, Thailand portion is already complete. Myanmar portion has delayed construction because of the violence in the country, estimated time of completion is another 3 years.
    India and Nepal  
    Development of the Siliguri– Mirik–Darjeeling link road ADB 150 2023 A tender has been floated for the development of the road.
    Construction of Mechi Bridge, which connects Nepal’s Jhapa district to Darjeeling in West Bengal ADB and National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation 25 2019 Mechi Bridge construction has been completed.
    Kathmandu– Terai Fast Track Road, including construction of a new fourlane expressway between Kathmandu and Nijgadh (76.2 km) and upgrading of Nijgadh–Pathlaiya segment from two to four lanes (18 km) Government of Nepal (and Nijgadh– Pathalaiya section by the World Bank) 2000 2024 Work is ongoing
    Upgrading of Narayanghat– Mungling– Kathmandu Road (146 km) and studies on axle load control and road safety measures World Bank and Government of Nepal 700 2024 Work on the Mungling - Kathmandu section is ongoing
    Upgrading of East–West Highway ADB, World Bank, and the Government of Nepal 2010 2025 Work is ongoing
    Sri Lanka
    Central Expressway, Phases I-IV, including Kadawata, Mirigama, Kurunagala, and Dambulla People’s Republic of China (PRC) 800-1000 2025 Work is ongoing
    Thailand and Myanmar
    Four-laning of the Mae Sot–Tak Highway Government of Thailand 90 2019 Complete in 2023
    Development of new Htee Kee(Myanmar)–Baan Phu Nam Ron (Thailand) border crossing road Government of Thailand 142 2024

    *All of the border roads mentioned in the table are drawn from the planned connectivity flagship projects as mentioned in the BIMSTEC Connectivity Master Plan which cites these roads as access roads for inter-country connectivity. While some of these roads are intra-country routes, the upgrade of these will enhance regional connectivity since they are border roads. 

    Annexure 2: Projects on Railway Connectivity

    Railway Connectivity Projects in BIMSTEC Master Plan
    Description Funding Organisation (tentative) Amount (in $million) Estimated completion year Current Status
    Construction of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Railway Bridge (parallel to the Jamuna Bridge) across the Jamuna River from Sirajganj to Tangail in Bangladesh with twin dual-gauge lines JICA 1,173 2023 53 percent of the project has been completed
    Construction of the Padma Bridge Rail Link from Dacca to Jashore in Bangladesh People’s Republic of China (PRC) 4,216 2022 The project is scheduled to be completed in 2024.
    Construction of a dual gauge railway line between Bogura and Shahid M. Monsur Ali Station, Sirajgunj in Bangladesh ILOC and Bangladesh Government 796 2022 Construction to begin by the end of 2023.
    Building of the line connecting New Belonia (in South Tripura) to Feni (in Bangladesh) Not mentioned   Survey completed in 2022 85 percent construction has been completed on the Indian side and 73 percent has been completed on the Bangladesh side.
    Construction of the Radhikapur–Biral rail link in Bangladesh Survey ongoing No information available.
    Construction of a new 12 km rail link from Akhaura (Bangladesh) to Agartala (Tripura) India 144 2023 Project is nearing completion.
    Construction of a new 3 km line linking Haldibari (West Bengal) to Chilahati (Bangladesh) India 2021 Project is completed.
    Construction of new lines that link Jiribam to lmphal (125 km) in Manipur and Imphal to Moreh (111 km) on the India– Myanmar border; another line linking Moreh to Tamu and KaIay (128 km) in Myanmar, and onward to Mandalay, also being built. North East Frontier Railways, India Yet to be finalised 2028 Work is ongoing
    Development of (i) the Kokrajhar (Assam)–Gelephu (Bhutan) (57 km) line; (ii) the Pathsala (Assam)–Nanglam (Bhutan) (51 km) line; (iii) the Rangiya (Assam)– Samdrupjongkhar (Bhutan) (48 km) line; (iv) the Banarhat (West Bengal)–Samtse (Bhutan) (23 km) line, and (v) the Hasimara (West Bengal)–Phuentsholing (Bhutan) (18 km) line India 130 Not estimated No information available.
    Development of (i) the Jaynagar– Bardibas line (69 km, including 3 km in India and 66 km in Nepal), (ii) the Jogbani–Biratnagar (19 km) line in Nepal, (iii) the Nepalganj to Nepalganj Road (12 km) line, (iv) the Nautanwa– Bhairahawa (15 km) in Nepal, and (v) the line from New Jalpaiguri in North Bengal to Kakarbhitta in Nepal (46 km) India 900 2025 Jaynagar-Bijalpura-Bardibas railline project is under construction. First phase(8km) of Jogbani-Biratnagar has been completed.
    Matara to Kataragama Railway Extension Project (120 km) PRC 278 2014-2028 Completed in 2019

    Source: ADB and BIMSTEC Report 2022[111]

    Annexure 3: Deep-Sea Port Projects

    Planned Flagship Projects to Develop Deeper Water Ports
    Code Project Description BIMSTEC Development Logic Estimated Cost, 2018 ($ million) (Possible) Funding Sources Timescale Current Status
    BAN-PM-002 Karnaphuli Container Terminal at Chattogram New container facilities in congested port handling BIMSTEC traffic 200 Government (Port Authority) 2022–2026 Two jetties have been built and two are pending. Operations will begin in 2024.[112]
    BAN-PM-006 Payra Port Development Project (first terminal, connecting road, bridge over the Andermanik River and related facilities) New seaport to serve southern Bangladesh and possibly Bhutan and Nepal 474 Government 2018-2021 Construction of the first terminal and road is expected to be completed and opened for operation by December 2023.[113]
    BAN-PM-007 Upgrading of Mongla Port (e.g., construction of container terminals including cargo handling equipment, tower, and container delivery yard) Improvement of Bangladesh’s second port, which serves Bhutan, India, and Nepal 656 Government and ILOC 2018-2021 India is providing a loan of Tk4,459 crore for one project; construction of container terminals at Jetty No. 1 and 2 & 13 segments are underway. Egis India Consulting Engineers Private Ltd., appointed as consultant. China will give Tk3,782 crore concessional loan on a G2G basis for port development. Project to be completed by 2027.[114]
    IND-PM-014 Augmentation of capacity of Haldia Dock Complex, Kolkata Port Trust (new lock gate in existing dock or basin and modification of existing lock gate) Increased capacity at major BIMSTEC gateway 200 Government and ADB To be progammed Tenders invited by KoPT in February 2019, to upgrade lock gates including a maintenance contract of 5 years after the completion of 1 year warranty period.[115]
    MYA-PM-016 New port facilities at Thilawa Special Economic Zone New port complex to handle intra-BIMSTEC trade 175 (JPY 19.087 billion) Government, JICA, and PPP 2016–2019 Myanmar Japan Thilawa Development Ltd. developed Zone A, and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd phases of Zone B. Its 4th phase was scheduled for 2020.[116]
    MYA-PM-017 New port facilities at Dawei Potential new maritime link between South and Southeast Asia 3050 Investor Not yet programmed Myanmar Government dismissed Thai construction company, for slow progress. Japan invested in the stalled project but is yet to play an active role.[117]
    SRL-PM-020 Extension of East Terminal at Colombo Facilitation of the handling of international cargo, including transshipment and bilateral traffic with other BIMSTEC members states 430–1,150 Government (Sri Lanka Ports Authority; 400 meters of container yard), and BOT 2014–2022 Construction of the second phase began in 2022. The construction work will be done in three phases and is expected to be completed by 2024.[118]
    SRL-PM-021 Construction of West Terminal at Colombo Provision of additional capacity to handle mega container ships 840 BOT 2023-2026 Sri Lanka Ports Authority with Adani International Port Holding and John Keells Holdings, is building the container terminal in 2 phases. Expected to be completed by 2024.[119]
    THA-PM-023 Development of Phase III at Laem Chabang Provision of additional capacity, including for handling of BIMSTEC traffic 1,500 Port Authority of Thailand and others 2019–2022 (feasibility study now under review) Construction is divided into Phase 1: infrastructure upgrades and Phase 2: energy-related business. Phase 1 is to be completed by 2027.[120] 58% of the project is done.

    Note: BOT: build–operate–transfer, China Exim Bank: Export-Import Bank of China, EPC: engineering, procurement, and construction, ILOC: Indian Line of Credit, JICA: Japan International Cooperation Agency, JPY: Japanese yen. PPP: public-private partnership, PRC: People’s Republic of China, SPV: special purpose vehicle.

    Source: The table from the BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity[121] has been updated by the authors.

    Annexure 4: Projects to promote Coastal Shipping 

    Planned Flagship Project for the Development of Coastal Shipping
    Code Project Description BIMSTEC Development Logic Estimated Cost, 2018 ($ million) (Possible) Funding Sources Timescale Current Status
    REG-PM-024 (BAN, IND, MYA, SRL, and THA) Study to develop coastal shipping Develop regional trade by short-sea shipping Not yet estimated Not yet identified, but ADB support for initial study 2018-2028 BIMSTEC Coastal shipping agreement expanded to Maritime Transport and Connectivity Agreement.  Will be signed at 6th Summit meeting in Nov 2023.[122]
    REG-IW-025 (BAN, IND, MYA, SRL, and THA) Investment projects to improve coastal shipping in the BIMSTEC region As above Not yet estimated Not yet identified 2020–2023 Same as above.

    Source: The table from the BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity[123] has been updated by the authors.

    Annexure 5: Projects for Inland Waterways Connectivity 

    Planned Flagship Projects to Develop International Inland Water Transport
    Code Project Description BIMSTEC Development Logic Estimated Cost, 2018 ($ million) (Possible) Funding Sources Timescale Current Status
    REG-IW-01 (BAN, BHU, NEP, IND, MYA) Study of opportunities to improve inland water transport in the BIMSTEC region. Historically important mode, which offers potential for sustainable, economically viable cross-border transport, as well as multimodal and intermodal connectivity 3  Not yet identified 2019-2020 The study resulted in the updated BIMSTEC Master Plan of 2022 by ADB.
    REG-IW-02 (BAN, BHU, NEP, IND, MYA) Investment projects to improve inland water transport in the BIMSTEC region As Above Not yet specified Not yet identified 2020–2023 India and Bangladesh have developed their protocol routes.[124] BIMSTEC also addressed the Natural Allies in Development and Interdependence (NADI) in 2022, on the centrality of river networks for better regional connectivity.[125]

    Note: BAN: Bangladesh, BHU: Bhutan, IND: India, MYA: Myanmar, NEP: Nepal, REG = regional.

    Source: The table from the BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity[126] has been updated by the authors.

    Annexure 6: Projects for Multimodal Connectivity 

    Planned Flagship Projects for Multimodal and Intermodal Transport Development
    Project Description BIMSTEC Development Logic Estimated Cost as of 2018 ($ million) Funding Organization (Tentative) Estimated Completion Year Current Status
    Second rail-connected ICD in Dhaka, Bangladesh Relieve road and port congestion 200 ADB and PPP Ongoing (started in 2020) Project will begin from 2024
    Establishment of road network in Bangladesh Facilitate multimodal and intermodal connectivity To be specified Not yet identified To be programmed No information available
    Development of Gelephu Transport Hub in Bhutan Diversify entry or exit points for BIMSTEC trade and transport Not yet specified Not yet identified 2018-2028 Preparatory work started in 2022
    Yangon-Dagon ICD, Myanmar Develop multimodal and intermodal facility for container traffic 16 Private 2021 Completed
    Yangon Region Dry Port (YwaThaGyi), Myanmar Link Yangon Airport, Yangon-Bago rail line, and eventually Hanthawaddy Airport 40 PPP 2019 Dry Port completed in 2019; linking pending
    Mandalay Region Dry Port (Myitnge), Myanmar Link Mandalay-Yangon Rail Line 40 PPP 2019 Completed
    Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project, India-Myanmar Use inland water transport as an alternative to longer road route 453 Indian Ministry of External Affairs Ongoing (started in 2020) Sittwe Port operationalized in May 2023; road component incomplete
    Establishment of logistics hub in Wartayar Industrial Zone Develop multimodal and intermodal facility for container traffic 15-20 PPP To be programmed Project cancelled post-February 2021 coup
    Development of software arrangements in Myanmar Facilitate multimodal and intermodal connectivity 5 Not identified Not decided No information available

    Source: The table from the BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity[127] has been updated by the authors.


    [a] BIMSTEC is the regional organisation devoted to the Bay of Bengal, whose member countries are India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand. Comprising countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia, BIMSTEC requires robust transport networks to connect these two geopolitical regions in the Bay of Bengal region.

    [b] The Connectivity sector is presently led by Thailand, and its activities are conducted by the BIMSTEC Transport Connectivity Working Group (BTCWG).

    [c] The paper does not discuss air connectivity, except as a part of multimodal linkages.

    [d] The attacks by the Houthi militia (an Iranian-backed rebel group) in the Red Sea since 2023 are increasingly causing shipping traffic from Europe to Australia to be routed around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope and directly across the Indian Ocean instead of using the Malacca conduit.

    [e] The Bay littoral countries of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand are all members of China’s BRI.

    [f] The different sections or parts of the railway network within the BIMSTEC region are not seamlessly coordinated or integrated with one another.

    [g] Class II roads are typically highways that serve as primary arteries for long-distance travel and trade. They often connect major cities, economic centres, and key transportation hubs. Class II and III Roads have lower capacity. Class II roads will connect secondary cities or serve as feeder roads to Class I highways. Class III roads are usually local roads or rural roads that facilitate transportation within specific areas.

    [h] The current routes are circuitous and lengthy, and adopting a more direct route will result in savings of approximately 150 kilometers and a potential reduction in travel time by up to 5 hours. Additionally, the new road promises increased reliability compared to the existing route, which is often prone to frequent disruptions and closures during the monsoon season, consequently lowering transport costs.

    [i] It means articulated truck or articulated lorry, which is a type of heavy-duty commercial vehicle used for transporting goods over long distances.

    [j] These routes comprise connections from Gede railway station (West Bengal) to Darsana (Bangladesh), Benapole to Petrapole (West Bengal), Singhabad (West Bengal) to Rohanpur, Radhikapur (West Bengal) to Birol (Bangladesh), and Haldibari (West Bengal) to Chilahati (Bangladesh). Ongoing efforts are in place to establish a connection between Mahihasan railway station in Assam (India) and Shahbazpur in Bangladesh.

    [k] Specifically for Tripura, the rail distance to Kolkata is now shortened from 1,600 km to 500 km.

    [l] This section derives heavily from Sohini Bose and Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury’s chapter, “Port Support: Analysing Regional Maritime Connectivity for BIMSTEC,” in Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury and Harsh V. Pant (eds.) “Anchoring the Bay of Bengal in a Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” ORF-GP Series, January 08, 2024, 77-92, https://www.orfonline.org/research/anchoring-the-bay-of-bengal-in-a-free-and-open-indo-pacific.

    [m] 95 percent of India’s international trade by volume and 74 percent by value happens through sea transport; Over 90 percent of Bangladesh’s international trade happens through the sea; In FY 2022-23 Myanmar depended on maritime routes for 76.64 percent of its commerce; More than 90 percent of Sri Lank’s trade flows are seaborne meaning that over 90 percent of its freight are handled by ports and; close to 80 percent of Thailand’s foreign trade moves through the sea. It is thus clear that most of the trade of BIMSTEC’s coastal countries happens via seaports.

    [n] India and Bangladesh concluded their Coastal Shipping Agreement in 6 June 2015.

    [o] ‘Short sea shipping’ refers to transporting goods via the sea over relatively short distances, unlike intercontinental cross-ocean deep-sea shipping.

    [1] BIMSTEC, “Connectivity,” BIMSTEC, https://bimstec.org/connectivity/

    [2] BIMSTEC and ADB, Financing Transport Connectivity in the BIMSTEC Region, BIMSTEC and ADB, December 2023, https://www.adb.org/publications/financing-transport-connectivity-bimstec

    [3] ADB, “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, ADB, April 2022, https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/institutional-document/740916/bimstec-master-plan-transport-connectivity.pdf

    [4] Kamal Madishetty, “Goa Summit Could Be the Turning Point for BIMSTEC,” The Diplomat, November 02, 2016, https://thediplomat.com/2016/11/goa-summit-could-be-the-turning-point-for-bimstec/

    [5]  Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, https://www.mea.gov.in/media-briefings.htm?dtl/27517/Me

    [6] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity,” April 2022,

    [7] Asian Development Bank, “About ADB,” Asian Development Bank,


    [8] Asian Development Bank, “About ADB,”

    [9] “Credit Fundamentals,” Asian Development Bank,

    [10] Marcus Lu, “Ranked: The Fastest Growing Economies In 2024, Visual Capitalist, October 24, 2023, https://www.visualcapitalist.com/ranked-the-fastest-growing-economies-in-2024/

    [11] Marcus Lu, “The World’s Largest Consumer Markets in 2030,” Visual Capitalist, February 08, 2024, https://www.visualcapitalist.com/the-worlds-largest-consumer-markets-in-2030/

    [12] Sohini Bose, “Dragon’s descent: Potential surge of Chinese investments in southern Bangladesh,” Observer Research Foundation, May 03, 2024, https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/dragon-s-descent-potential-surge-of-chinese-investments-in-southern-bangladesh

    [13] BIMSTEC, “Major Economic Indicators of BIMSTEC Member States,” BIMSTEC, November 15, 2023, https://bimstec.org/data

    [14] Kaewkamol Pitakdumrongkit, “Geoeconomic Crossroads: The Strait of Malacca’s Impact on Regional Trade”, The National Bureau of Asian Research, October 5, 2023, https://www.nbr.org/publication/geoeconomic-crossroads-the-strait-of-malaccas-impact-on-regional-trade/

    [15] Pawel Paszac, “China and the “Malacca Dilemma,” Warsaw Institute, February 28, 2021, https://warsawinstitute.org/china-malacca-dilemma/

    [16] Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, https://www.mea.gov.in/lok-sabha.htm?dtl/35118/question+no+4832+indian+trade+through+south+china+sea

    [17] “Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the EU”, European Union, August 08, 2021, https://www.eeas.europa.eu/eeas/gulf-cooperation-council-gcc-and-eu_en#:~:text=The%20Cooperation%20Council%20for%20the,and%20the%20United%20Arab%20Emirates.

    [18] David Uren, “War risks to Australian maritime trade,” Australian Strategic Policy Institute, March 28, 2024, https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/war-risks-to-australian-maritime-trade/#:~:text=They%20carry%20about%20two%2Dthirds,Indian%20Ocean%20trading%20with%20Asia.

    [19] Government of the United States of America, Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States, Washington, D.C: The White House, February 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/U.S.-Indo-Pacific-Strategy.pdf

    [20] Qi Lin, “Japan’s strategic counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative,” Global Risk Insights, December 28, 2017, https://globalriskinsights.com/2017/12/japans-strategic-counter-chinas-belt-road-initiative/

    [21] David Brewster, “Playing to Australia’s strengths in the Bay of Bengal,” Australian National University, https://nsc.crawford.anu.edu.au/department-news/12988/playing-australias-strengths-bay-bengal

    [22] Sohini Bose and Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury, “India and a Stable Indo-Pacific: Managing Maritime Security Challenges in the Bay of Bengal,” Observer Research Foundation, Occasional Paper no. 432, 8-9, March 27, 2024, https://www.orfonline.org/research/india-and-a-stable-indo-pacific-managing-maritime-security-challenges-in-the-bay-of-bengal

    [23] David Brewster, “The Bay of Bengal: the scramble for connectivity,” The Strategist, December 04, 2014, https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/the-bay-of-bengal-the-scramble-for-connectivity/

    [24] BIMSTEC, “Partnership between BIMSTEC Secretariat and the Asian Development Bank,” BIMSTEC, https://bimstec.org/adb

    [25] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, April 2022,

    [26] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, April 2022,

    [27] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, April 2022,

    [28] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, April 2022,

    [29] Sreeparna Banerjee, “India’s Connectivity Projects with Myanmar, Post-Coup: A Stocktaking”, Observer Research Foundation, February 22, 2023, https://www.orfonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/ORF_IssueBrief_617_Myanmar-India-Connectivity.pdf

    [30] RIS and AIC, “Trilateral Highway and Its Extension to Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam: Development Implications for North East India”, RIS and AIC, 2021,  https://aseanindiacentre.org.in/sites/default/files/Publication/TH%20Report-19%20October.pdf

    [31] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, April 2022

    [32] Sreeparna Banerjee, “Bringing India and Thailand Closer via the Trilateral Highway Through Myanmar”, Observer Research Foundation, November 21, 2023, https://www.orfonline.org/research/bringing-india-and-thailand-closer-via-the-trilateral-highway-through-myanmar

    [33] Sreeparna Banerjee, “Thailand's tactical tango: Responding to the Myanmar crisis”, Observer Research Foundation, May 1, 2024, https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/thailand-s-tactical-tango-responding-to-the-myanmar-crisis

    [34] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, April 2022

    [35] “Fast Track achieves 27.19 percent physical progress”, My Republica, November 11, 2023, https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/fast-track-achieves-27-19-percent-physical-progress/

    [36] “Fast Track achieves 27.19 percent physical progress”

    [37] “Fast Track achieves 27.19 percent physical progress”

    [38] Binod Ghimire, “The many roadblocks to timely completion of expressway”, The Kathmandu Post, December 24, 2023, https://kathmandupost.com/national/2023/12/24/the-many-roadblocks-to-timely-completion-of-expressway#:~:text=Binod%20Ghimire&text=Had%20the%20construction%20of%20the,Roads%2C%20to%20the%20Nepal%20Army.

    [39] “The many roadblocks to timely completion of expressway”

    [40] My Republica, Ensure early completion of Kathmandu-Terai Fast Track Project, My Republica, August 17, 2023, https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/ensure-early-completion-of-kathmandu-terai-fast-track-project/

    [41] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, April 2022

    [42] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, April 2022

    [43] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, April 2022

    [44] Sohini Bose and Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury, “Significance of the Akhaura-Agartala Rail Link for India and Bangladesh”, Observer Research Foundation, November 22, 2023, https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/significance-of-the-akhaura-agartala-rail-link-for-india-and-bangladesh

    [45] Sunita Baral, “Rail service starts on Kurtha-Bijalapura section”, The Kathmandu Post, July 16, 2023, https://kathmandupost.com/national/2023/07/16/kurtha-bijalpura-rail-section-comes-into-operation

    [46] “Commencement of Train Operations on Jaynagar (Bihar - India) - Kurtha (Nepal) Section.”, Konkan Railway Corporation Ltd., April 2, 2022, https://konkanrailway.com/press/details/1448

    [47] Sreeparna Banerjee and Ambar Kumar Ghosh, “India’s Northeast: Gateway to Connectivity with Eastern Neighbours”, Observer Research Foundation, March 29, 2023, https://www.orfonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/ORF_OccasionalPaper_395_India-Northeast.pdf

    [48] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, April 2022

    [49] “Myanmar Transport Sector Policy Note Railways”, ADB, 2016, https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/189081/mya-railways.pdf

    [50] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, April 2022

    [51] For India see, Anil Jai Singh, “India’s Maritime Economy: Driving India’s Growth,” India Foundation, February 27, 2021, https://indiafoundation.in/articles-and-commentaries/indias-maritime-economy-driving-indias-growth/; Sohini Bose, “Bangladesh's Seaports: Securing Domestic and Regional Economic Interests,” Observer Research Foundation, Occasional Paper no. 387, January 10, 2023, https://www.orfonline.org/research/bangladesh-s-seaports-securing-domestic-and-regional-economic-interests; South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment, “Trade and Transport Facilitation Audit Sri Lanka Country Report,” 2017, https://sawtee.org/Research_Reports/7_Trade-Facilitation-in-South-Asia_Sri-Lanka_fin.pdf; “Myanmar's exports up 15.09% in over 8 months of FY 22-23: Govt data,” Business Standard, December 29, 2022, https://www.business-standard.com/article/international/myanmar-s-exports-up-15-09-in-over-8-months-of-fy-22-23-govt-data-122122900064_1.html; Jittichai Rudjanakanoknad, Wiracah Suksirivoraboot and Sumalee Sukdanont, “Evaluation of International Ports in Thailand through Trade Facilitation Indices from Freight Forwarders,” Elsevier, 2013, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042814001438/pdf?md5=590e7b48ca0c62f79a9c82031aa65fed&pid=1-s2.0-S1877042814001438-main.pdf&_valck=1

    [52] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, April 2022

    [53] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, April 2022

    [54] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, April 2022

    [55] 67 Chittagong (Bangladesh), Lloyd’s List, July 17, 2023, https://lloydslist.com/LL1145769/67-Chittagong-Bangladesh

    [56] Niladri S. Nath, “Kolkata Dock System: Agony of A Riverine Port”, The Dollar Business, November 2016, https://www.thedollarbusiness.com/magazine/kolkata-dock-systemagony-of-a-riverine-port/45906

    [57] Subir Bhaumik, “Kolkata Port:   Challenges of Geopolitics and Globalisation,” Draft. Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/http://www.mcrg.ac.in/logistics/Abstracts/Subir.pdf

    [58] Bose, “Bangladesh’s Seaports: Securing Domestic and Regional Economic Interests,”

    [59] “Kolkata Dock System: Agony of A Riverine Port,”

    [60] Bose, “Bangladesh’s Seaports: Securing Domestic and Regional Economic Interests

    [61] Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury and Jasim Uddin, “Colombo port congestion comes as fresh supply chain woe,” The Business Standard, March 30, 2022, https://www.tbsnews.net/economy/colombo-port-congestion-comes-fresh-supply-chain-woe-394238

    [62] Bose, “Bangladesh’s Seaports: Securing Domestic and Regional Economic Interests,”

    [63] “Kolkata Dock System: Agony of A Riverine Port,”

    [64] “Port Digest,” Newsletter of Chennai Port Trust, Volume 1, Issue 1, January 2018, chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://www.chennaiport.gov.in/sites/all/themes/nexus/files/pdf/PD1.pdf

    [65] Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury, et. al., “India’s Maritime Connectivity: Importance of the Bay of Bengal,” Observer Research Foundation, March 26, 2018, p.27, https://www.orfonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/ORF_Maritime_Connectivity.pdf

    [66] Arkar Phyo, “Yangon: Towards a Sustainable Development as Port City,” Port City Futures, June 24, 2022, https://www.portcityfutures.nl/news/yangon-towards-a-sustainable-development-as-port-city

    [67] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity,” April 2022,

    [68] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity,” April 2022,

    [69] Bhaumik, “Kolkata Port:   Challenges of Geopolitics and Globalisation,”

    [70] “Gadkari’s Sagar port plan sinks as Didi pushes Tajpur project,” The Hindu Business Line, January 11, 2018, https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/logistics/gadkaris-sagar-port-plan-sinks-as-didi-pushes-tajpur-project/article9785334.ece

    [71] “Committed to Tajpur Port, waiting for formalities from Bengal govt: Adani official,” The Economic Times, February 12, 2023, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/india/committed-to-tajpur-port-waiting-for-formalities-from-bengal-govt-adani-official/articleshow/97844349.cms?from=mdr

    [72] Mayank Aggarwal, “The container terminal that could sink the Great Nicobar Island”, Mongabay, July 20, 2022, https://india.mongabay.com/2022/07/the-container-terminal-that-could-sink-the-great-nicobar-island/

    [73] Mayank Aggarwal, “The container terminal that could sink the Great Nicobar Island”,

    [74] Pratnashree Basu and Sohini Bose, “The Merits of a Transhipment Port at Great Nicobar: A Brief Assessment,” Andaman Chronicle, August 18, 2020, https://www.andamanchronicle.net/index.php/opinion/19497-the-merits-of-a-transhipment-port-at-great-nicobar-a-brief-assessment

    [75] Sreoshi Sinha, “The Development of the Matarbari port and its Significance for the Region,” National Maritime Foundation, August 15, 2023, https://maritimeindia.org/the-development-of-the-matarbari-port-and-its-significance-for-the-region/

    [76] Bose, “Bangladesh’s Seaports: Securing Domestic and Regional Economic Interests,”

    [77] Greenpeace, Double Standard, Greenpeace, 2019.

    [78] Bose, “Bangladesh’s Seaports: Securing Domestic and Regional Economic Interests,”

    [79] Manishita Das, “Operationalisation of Sittwe Port in Myanmar can positively impact regional development: India has great stake in early completion of Kaladan project,” South Asia Monitor, June 12, 2023, https://www.southasiamonitor.org/spotlight/operationalisation-sittwe-port-myanmar-can-positively-impact-regional-development-india

    [80] “China pressures Myanmar to proceed on port project amid community concerns,” Radio Free Asia, June 01, 2023, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/project-06012023165833.html

    [81] Jonathan Tai, “A Tale of Two Ports in Myanmar,” China US Focus, August 24, 2017, https://www.chinausfocus.com/peace-security/a-tale-of-two-ports-in-myanmar

    [82] Yohei Muramatsu and Yuichi Nitta, “Myanmar removes Thai builder from Indo-Pacific economic-zone project,” Nikkei Asia, January 13, 2021, https://asia.nikkei.com/Economy/Myanmar-removes-Thai-builder-from-Indo-Pacific-economic-zone-project

    [83] “Chittagong – Ranong Ports Direct Service Remains A Non-Starter,” Maritime Gateway, May 22, 2023, https://www.maritimegateway.com/chittagong-ranong-ports-direct-service-remains-a-non-starter/

    [84] Maritime Promotion Division, Marine Department, Ministry of Transport, Government of Thailand, May 08, 2023.

    [85] S. Sundar and Pragya Jaswal, “Bottlenecks in the Growth of Coastal Shipping,” India Resident Mission Policy Brief Series, No. 14, Asian Development Bank, 2007, p. 5, https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/30116/inrm14.pdf

    [86] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, April 2022,

    [87] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, April 2022,

    [88] “Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade,” Government of India and Government of Bangladesh, June 06, 2015, https://www.mea.gov.in/Portal/LegalTreatiesDoc/BG15B2421.pdf


    BIWTA, Government of Bangladesh, chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://biwta.portal.gov.bd/sites/default/files/files/biwta.portal.gov.bd/page/b9fbb84f_6e13_49ab_bf41_4aa386ee4d50/Protocol%20Summary(New)%20(1).pdf

    [90]  Ministry of Ports Shipping and Waterways, Government of India, https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1625342

    [91]   BIWTA, Government of Bangladesh, chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://biwta.portal.gov.bd/sites/default/files/files/biwta.portal.gov.bd/page/b9fbb84f_6e13_49ab_bf41_4aa386ee4d50/Protocol%20Summary(New)%20(1).pdf

    [92] Ministry of Ports Shipping and Waterways, Government of India, https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1625342

    [93] Veena Vidyadharan, “Harnessing Inland Waterways for Inclusive Trade Among Bay of Bengal Countries,” Asia-Pacific Bulletin, East-West Center, Number 558, May 12, 2021, https://www.eastwestcenter.org/sites/default/files/private/apb558.pdf

    [94] Ministry of Ports Shipping and Waterways, Government of India, https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1625342

    [95] Veena Vidyadharan, “Harnessing Inland Waterways for Inclusive Trade Among Bay of Bengal Countries,”

    [96] Sohini Bose and Pratnashree Basu, “In Search of the Sea: Opening India’s Northeast to the Bay of Bengal,” Observer Research Foundation, Special Report 148, June 21, 2021, https://www.orfonline.org/research/in-search-of-the-sea-opening-indias-northeast-to-the-bay-of-bengal/

    [97] BIMSTEC,  “Addressing the Natural Allies in Development and Interdependence (NADI) Asian Confluence River Conclave in Guwahati, on 28 May, Secretary General Tenzin Lekphell explained some of the initiatives of BIMSTEC in enhancing connectivity in the region.”, BIMSTEC,  28 May 2022, https://bimstec.org/event/59/addressing-the-natural-allies-in-development-and-interdependence-nadi-asian-confluence-river-conclave-in-guwahati-on-28-may-secretary-general-tenzin-lekphell-explained-some-of-the-initiatives-of-bimstec-in-enhancing-connectivity-in-the-region-

    [98] Veena Vidyadharan, “Harnessing Inland Waterways for Inclusive Trade Among Bay of Bengal Countries,”

    [99] “Dhirasram ICD financiers finalised, construction to begin in 2024”, The Business Standard, February 8, 2023, https://www.tbsnews.net/bangladesh/dhirasram-icd-financiers-finalised-construction-begin-2024-581942

    [100] ADB, “People’s Republic of Bangladesh: Support for Preparation of South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation Dhirasram Inland Container Depot Project”, ADB Technical Assistance, December 2022, https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/project-documents/56172/56172-001-tar-en.pdf

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    [102] Moushumi Das Gupta, “India-Myanmar Kaladan waterway to open in May. But ‘real gains’ only when 110-km road is completed”, The Print, April 20, 2023, https://theprint.in/india/india-myanmar-kaladan-waterway-to-open-in-may-but-real-gains-only-when-110-km-road-is-completed/1546493/

    [103] Sreeparna Banerjee, “Arrival of the first Indian cargo ship at Sittwe Port: Assessing the Kaladan Project”, Observer Research Foundation, May 10, 2023, https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/arrival-of-the-first-indian-cargo-ship-at-sittwe-port/

    [104] “Thailand expresses concern over BIMSTEC motor vehicle pact”, Business Standard, April 11, 2018, https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/thailand-expresses-concern-over-bimstec-motor-vehicle-pact-118041100722_1.html

    [105] Suhasini Haider, “Bangladesh, India, Nepal move ahead on motor vehicle agreement project”, The Hindu, March 9, 2022, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/bangladesh-india-nepal-move-ahead-on-motor-vehicle-agreement-project/article65205145.ece

    [106] Financing Transport Connectivity in the BIMSTEC Region, December 2023,

    [107] Financing Transport Connectivity in the BIMSTEC Region, December 2023,

    [108] Constantino Xavier, “Bridging the Bay of Bengal: Toward a Stronger BIMSTEC”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 22, 2018, https://carnegieendowment.org/files/CP_325_Xavier_Bay_of_Bengal_INLINE.pdf

    [109] Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.; “Indian firm appointed for road building under the Kaladan project in Myanmar”,  Mizzima, February 28, 2022.

    [110] Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1558475

    [111] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, April 2022,

    [112] “Karnaphuli Dry Dock, Container Port to Start Operation In 2024,” Maritime Gateway, December 12, 2021, https://www.maritimegateway.com/karnaphuli-dry-dock-container-port-to-start-operation-in-2024/

    [113] “PM opens development schemes to make Payra Seaport world standard,” The Business Standard, October 27, 2022, https://www.tbsnews.net/bangladesh/infrastructure/pm-hasina-opens-several-development-projects-payra-seaport-520890

    [114] “Mongla Port Getting Yet Another Big Boost,” Maritime Gateway, July 15, 2023, https://www.maritimegateway.com/mongla-port-getting-yet-another-big-boost/

    [115] Haldia Dock Complex, Kolkata Port Trust, Tender No. SDM(P&E) T/ 36 /2018-2019, https://smportkolkata.shipping.gov.in/showtndfile.php?tender_id=4818

    [116] “Thilawa special economic zone to launch new phase,” Bangkok Post, June 06, 2019, https://www.bangkokpost.com/world/1690396/thilawa-special-economic-zone-to-launch-new-phase

    [117] Yohei Muramatsu and Yuichi Nitta, “Myanmar removes Thai builder from Indo-Pacific economic-zone project,” Nikkei Asia, January 13, 2021, https://asia.nikkei.com/Economy/Myanmar-removes-Thai-builder-from-Indo-Pacific-economic-zone-project

    [118]  Presidential Secretariat, Government of Sri Lanka, https://www.presidentsoffice.gov.lk/index.php/2022/01/12/second-phase-constructions-of-eastern-container-terminal-at-colombo-port-commenced/

    [119] Peter Nilson, “The 10 most expensive port construction projects in 2022,” Ship Technology, February 14, 2023, https://www.ship-technology.com/features/the-10-most-expensive-marine-construction-projects-in-2022/?cf-view

    [120] “Laem Chabang Port phase 3 on track for 2027 completion: IEAT,” The Nation, August 16, 2023, https://www.nationthailand.com/thailand/general/40030251

    [121] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity,” April 2022,

    [122] “India, BIMSTEC to enter agreement for free maritime movement of goods,” The Economic Times, April 12, 2022, https://infra.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/ports-shipping/india-bimstec-partners-to-frame-agreement-for-maritime-connectivity/90777757 https://infra.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/ports-shipping/india-bimstec-partners-to-frame-agreement-for-maritime-connectivity/90777757

    [123] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity,” April 2022,

    [124] Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, “India, Bangladesh launch new initiative to connect landlocked North East,” The Economic Times, September 03, 2020, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/india-bangladesh-launch-new-initiative-to-connect-landlocked-north-east/articleshow/77917927.cms?from=mdr

    [125] “Addressing the Natural Allies in Development and Interdependence (NADI) Asian Confluence River Conclave in Guwahati, on 28 May, Secretary General Tenzin Lekphell explained some of the initiatives of BIMSTEC in enhancing connectivity in the region,”

    [126] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, April 2022

    [127] “BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity”, April 2022

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    Sohini Bose

    Sohini Bose

    Sohini Bose is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Kolkata with the Strategic Studies Programme. Her area of research is India’s eastern maritime ...

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    Sreeparna Banerjee

    Sreeparna Banerjee

    Sreeparna Banerjee is a Junior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation Kolkata with the Strategic Studies Programme.

    Read More +
    Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury

    Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury

    Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury is Senior Fellow with ORF’s Neighbourhood Initiative. She is the Editor, ORF Bangla. She specialises in regional and sub-regional cooperation in ...

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    Sohini Bose

    Sohini Bose

    Sreeparna Banerjee

    Sreeparna Banerjee

    Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury

    Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury