The Siliguri Corridor (Bengali: শিলিগূড়ি করিডোর) or Chicken's Neck (Bengali: চিকেন নেক) is a narrow stretch of land that connects India's north-eastern states to the rest of India, with the countries of Nepal and Bangladesh lying on either side of the corridor. The kingdom of Bhutan lies on the northern side of the corridor.
The city of Siliguri in the state of West Bengal is the major city in this area. The city is the central node that connects Bhutan, Nepal, Sikkim, Darjeeling hills, north-east India and the rest of India.
The corridor is an important and sensitive one for India. The location of this corridor has created a political reality that is important for Bangladesh as well. Separation of India occurred as an outcome of the hostility between Indian National Congress and the Muslim League. From the very beginning, the relationship between these two new states was marked by hostilities and confrontations.
The formation of “East Pakistan” created a kind of geographical barrier for the northeastern part of India. The narrow Siliguri Corridor (which is at one point less than 14 miles wide) remained as the bridge between the northeastern part of India and the rest of the country.
This region was wedged between hostile East Pakistan to the south and west and hostile China to the north. It had no access to the sea closer than Calcutta, on the other side of the corridor. Between Sikkim and Bhutan lies the Chumbi valley, a dagger-like slice of the Tibetan territory. A Chinese military advance of less than 80 miles would cut off Bhutan, part of West Bengal and all of North-East India, containing almost 50 million people. This situation occurred during the war between India and China in 1962. The independence of Bangladesh has reduced this vulnerability to a great extent.[how?]
Islamic radical groups (backed by Pakistan and various Islamic societies around world) consider this as a very important region since cutting this off provides them with opportunity for islamization of East Indian states. This is a part of their bigger initiative of Islamization of the whole of the North Indian region.
Being a sensitive area amidst three countries, the strip is heavily patrolled by the Indian Army, the Assam Rifles, the Border Security Force and the West Bengal Police. In recent times, the area has become the focus of illegal crossings between Bangladeshi rebels and Nepali Maoist insurgents, both in search of refuge from their country. A flourishing narcotics and weapons traffic also takes place in this region.
All land transportation between mainland India and its far north-eastern states must use this circuitous corridor, as there is no free trade agreement between Bangladesh and India. The route has a major broad gauge railway line. Electrification of this double track corridor is in progress with assistance from CORE (Central Organization for Railway Electrification). Additionally the old metre gauge line (recently converted into a 75 km Broad Gauge Line) connects Siliguri Junction with Islampur in North Dinajpur District of West Bengal, via Bagdogra (the only airport of national interest in the corridor) and several other bordering towns with Nepal, viz. Adhikari, Galgalia, Thakurganj, Naxalbari, Taiabpur etc. National Highway 31 connects Siliguri to Guwahati in Assam which is the most critical highway in the region, owing to the insurgents in the vicinity.
In 2002, India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh studied a proposal to create a free trade zone in the area which would enable all four countries to connect directly with each other without restrictions.
- Marcus Franda, "Bangladesh, The First Decades", South Asian Publishers Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi,1982, p-126
- Partha S. Ghosh, "Cooperation and Conflict in South Asia", UPL, Dhaka,1989,p-43
- "Chicken's Neck, All choked up." Outlook. 13 July 1998. Accessed 27 February 2011.
- "Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and India to set up FTA." Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry News & News. July–August 2002. Accessed 30 May 2008.