Siliguri Corridor – Linking Nepal and Bangladesh
The “Chicken’s Neck”, also known as the Siliguri Corridor, is a small area of land that has been the center of a regional controversy in Asia for more than 50 years. First recognized in 1947, the Siliguri Corridor is located in a region between India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
With a width between 21 and 40 kilometers in certain areas, the Siliguri Corridor has been patrolled by four recognized military and police forces: The Assam Rifles, The West Bengal Police, The Indian Army and the Border Security Force. With so many countries and factions vying for control over one tiny area, it is no surprise that the Siliguri Corridor has become a politically charged subject in the region.
The Chicken’s Neck is heavily used by India to connect its eastern states. Because Bangladesh and Nepal do not have a border that connects them, the only area that separates the two countries is the Siliguri Corridor. Great efforts are being made to establish this diving stretch of land as a free trade zone, as free trade between Bangladesh and India has not been secured yet. Tensions are very high between India and Bangladesh, and the highway and railway that runs through the Siliguri Corridor is the only stable factor that keeps India from being independent of Bangladesh. With Bangladesh being a haven for Islamist militants, India would be very reluctant to request access to the northeast from Bangladesh, should the railway and highway be damaged or destroyed.
Chicken’s Neck, or the Siliguri Corridor has also been a known area for criminal activity. It is a popular area for rebels and insurgents to make illegal crossings and many people fleeing their dire situations take on the Siliguri Corridor in the hope to find a better life elsewhere. And together with illegal crossings, comes smuggling. It has been a hot spot for the smuggling of drugs and other narcotic substances and many weapons are also smuggled through this area.
It is hoped that if Chicken’s Neck has to become a free trade zone it would be able to lift trade restrictions between Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. India, however, have been establishing alternative trade routes, such as a water route to Myanmar where they are negotiating the development of a port to have free access to their northeastern regions.
Nepal is only separated from Bangladesh by the narrow Siliguri Corridor, an important link between the countries.