Bangladesh has expressed interest in being part of the proposed Asian Highway network through Burma, upgrading its highway 41 to international stading from its sub-regional status.

Bangladeshi officials decided Thursday to utilise the next working committee meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) to propose the route before ratifying the multinational treaty.

The decision to make the bid was made at an inter-ministerial meeting held in Dhaka.

Burma, Thailand and China will be asked to make the route upgradation proposal on behalf of Bangladesh during the UNESCAP working committee meeting from December 14 to 15 in Bangkok.

UNESCAP has dismissed similar proposals in the past but advised Bangladesh last August to raise their requests through a member country.

The decision has been made by authorities in Dhaka to send a two-member delegation headed by a foreign ministry official of Bangladesh to the working committee meeting.

If the upgradation proposal is accepted, the highway will enter Bangladesh from India through Benapole and into Burma through Teknaf.

This is likely to be the last attempt by Bangladesh to convince UNESCAP to approve the project after the organisation set a December 31 approval deadline.

If Bangladesh fails to meet the deadline, it may miss the chance of linking with the 140,000 kilometres international highway connecting 32 Asian countries and will stretch from Tokyo to Ankara.

“We can’t accept any highway route that will turn the country into a transit point for a certain country,” communications minister Nazmul Huda told reporters after the meeting yesterday.

The minister expressed his optimism that the foreign ministry would be successful in persuading one of the three countries to take Bangladesh’s proposal to the UNESCAP meeting.

So far, 27 out of 32 member countries including Japan, China, India, Malaysia, Pakistan Iran and Turkey have signed on to join the highway. Every South Asian country except Bangladesh signed the inter-governmental agreement last year.

The project is regarded as one of the three pillars of Asian Land Transport Infrastructure Development, comprising the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway.

About 55 routes connecting 32 member countries have been identified.