Dhaka, November 27:

China has refused to back a proposal by Bangladesh to change the route through of the proposed Asian Highway through the latter’s territory so as to bypass India. Bangladesh has proposed to join the highway through Myanmar to bypass the original route plan through India, to which it did not want to offer transit facility. But China has expressed its inability to back the proposed modification to a part of the ambitious Asian Highway project that aims to link Singapore to New Delhi through Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Vientiane, Chiang Mai, Yangon, Mandalay, Tamu, Dhaka and Kolkata. Bangladesh had favoured the Dhaka-Yangon road via Teknaf (AH-41 route), the southeastern tip of the country, instead of AH-1 route from Tamabil to Benapole or Banglabandha that will go through India.

“China has cited time constraint as the reason for not backing Bangladesh’s proposal,” a senior official of the communications ministry of Bangladesh said. China’s refusal has put Bangladesh in a tricky situation as Bangladesh had high hopes of Beijing’s support. The deadline for Bangladesh to ratify the agreement for joining the Asian Highway is December 31. “It is difficult for us to stick to our demand because of China’s refusal,” said the official, adding that they were now waiting for the response of Thailand and Myanmar to Bangladesh’s proposal. The Asian Highway project is a cooperative project among countries in Asia and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to improve the highway systems in Asia.

The 140,000-km highway aims to link 32 countries from Japan to Turkey. The Bangladesh government, in an inter-ministerial meeting in October, had decided to urge the ESCAP to amend the route plan at the joint working committee meeting on the Asian Highway to be held in Bangkok on December 14-15. Communications Minister Nazmul Huda had said the proposed AH-41 road had to be given the status of the Asian Highway because Bangladesh did not want Indian land ports to be the entry and exit points of the route. Twenty-seven of the 32 counties, including Japan, China, Malaysia, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and all South Asian nations except Bangladesh, signed the agreement in 2004.