Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday jointly inaugurated three projects via virtual mode, including a key rail link between Tripura’s Nischintapur and Gangasagar in Bangladesh.
The other two projects inaugurated by PM Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart are the 65-km Khulna-Mongla Port Rail Line and Unit 2 of the Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant in Bangladesh’s Rampal.
The cross-border rail project near Tripura’s capital Agartala and Akhaura in Bangladesh is expected to boost cross-border trade, and significantly reduce the travel time between Agartala and Kolkata via Dhaka. When fully completed, the cross-border rail link will cut the travel time from Kolkata to Agartala from 36 hours to 12 hours.
PM Modi hailed the inauguration of the Cross Border Rail Link as a “historic” moment.
“It is a matter of joy that we have come together again to celebrate the successful cooperation between India and Bangladesh. Our relationship is touching new highs. Together, we have achieved in the last nine years what has not been achieved in decades,” Prime Minister Modi said.
The projects are important for India’s Look East Policy and will also boost connectivity to the northeast which is heavily dependent on the narrow Chicken’s Neck or Siliguri Corridor. They are also a testament to India’s commitment to the region around the Bay of Bengal with organizations like the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) which has its secretariat in Bangladesh.
‘First Rail Link Between Northeast, Bangladesh’
During the inauguration of the Agartala-Akhaura Rail Link, PM Modi highlighted the impact of these projects, especially during the pandemic with oxygen trains. “This is the first rail link between the northeast and Bangladesh,” he was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
“We have focused especially on infrastructure, connectivity and in the last nine years, we have started three new bus services. We have connected Dhaka, Shillong, Agartala, Guwahati and Kolkata. In the last nine years, we have started three new railway services. From 2020, we started container and parcel services,” he added.
“In the last nine years through Chittagong and the Mongla Port, we have connected the northeastern states of India. Our connectivity initiative worked as a lifeline during the Covid pandemic,” Prime Minister Modi said.
“In the last nine years, four new immigration check posts have been opened on the India-Bangladesh border and our bilateral trade has nearly tripled. The journey of these nine years has made us reach the inauguration of the Agartala Akhaura Railway Link and it is a historic moment,” he added.
‘Firm Cooperation Between Countries’
Sheikh Hasina said the relationship between Bangladesh and India is anchored in history culture language and both countries share values of secularism, democracy, and countless other commonalities.
She added that Bangladesh attaches the highest importance to its relationship with India with a focus on connectivity, trade, and commerce. She expressed gratitude to the government of India for its significant contribution to these sectors and also extended Diwali greetings.
“The joint inauguration of these projects manifests the firm friendship and collaboration between our two countries. I would like to thank you PM Modi for his warm hospitality during my visit to New Delhi in September 2023 to attend the G20 Leaders’ Summit. I express my heartfelt gratitude for your commitment to strengthening the bonds of friendship between our two countries,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said.
“I would like to thank the Government of India for jointly producing the biopic on the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh Bangabandhu ‘Sheikh Mujibur Rehman – Mujib: The Making of a Nation’. I would like to extend my deep appreciation and thankfulness to Shri Narendra Modi,” she added.
“Our collaboration in the connectivity and power sector stands out as a shining example of our cooperation,” she said at the inauguration event.
India and Bangladesh ties are crucial for India’s Act East Policy and these projects have also laid the groundwork for more cooperation and opening of passenger and freight routes between India and Bangladesh and also for alternative supply routes for northeastern states