On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, jointly inaugurated three projects remotely. These projects encompass a crucial rail link connecting Tripura’s Nischintapur with Gangasagar in Bangladesh.
The other two projects inaugurated by PM Modi and the Bangladeshi Prime Minister include 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, situated near Tripura’s capital, Agartala, and Akhaura in Bangladesh, is anticipated to boost cross-border trade and significantly reduce travel time between Agartala and Kolkata via Dhaka. When fully operational, this rail link will reduce the travel time from Kolkata to Agartala from 36 hours to just 12 hours.
PM Modi hailed the inauguration of the Cross-Border Rail Link as a “historic” moment. He remarked, “It is a moment of joy that we have come together once again to celebrate the successful cooperation between India and Bangladesh. Our relationship is reaching new heights, and over the last nine years, we have achieved what had not been accomplished in decades.”
These projects carry immense importance for India’s Look East Policy and will enhance connectivity to the Northeast, which heavily relies on the narrow Siliguri Corridor, also known as the “Chicken’s Neck.” They also underscore India’s dedication to the Bay of Bengal region, including organizations such as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), with its secretariat located in Bangladesh.
PM Modi stressed the significance of these projects, especially during the pandemic, where they played a pivotal role in transporting oxygen trains. He highlighted, “This marks the first rail link between the Northeast and Bangladesh.”
He added, “We have placed a special emphasis on infrastructure and connectivity. In the past nine years, we have initiated three new bus services, connecting Dhaka, Shillong, Agartala, Guwahati, and Kolkata. Since 2020, we have launched three new railway services, including container and parcel services.”
“Over the past nine years, our connectivity initiatives have linked the northeastern states of India through Chittagong and the Mongla Port. This connectivity has been a lifeline during the Covid pandemic,” Prime Minister Modi emphasized.
He continued, “During these nine years, we have opened four new immigration check posts on the India-Bangladesh border, and our bilateral trade has nearly tripled. This journey has led us to the inauguration of the Agartala-Akhaura Railway Link, marking a historic milestone.”
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina conveyed that the relationship between Bangladesh and India is deeply rooted in history, culture, language, and shared values like secularism and democracy. She highlighted the significance of connectivity, trade, and commerce in the bilateral relationship and expressed her gratitude to the Indian government for its substantial contributions in these areas. She also extended Diwali greetings.
The joint inauguration of these projects reflects the strong friendship and cooperation between the two countries. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina thanked PM Modi for his warm hospitality during her visit to New Delhi in September 2023 to attend the G20 Leaders’ Summit. She also expressed her appreciation for India’s commitment to strengthening the bonds of friendship between the two nations.
She mentioned India’s collaboration in the connectivity and power sectors as a shining example of cooperation between the two countries.
India-Bangladesh relations are vital for India’s Act East Policy, and these projects lay the groundwork for more extensive cooperation, the opening of passenger and freight routes between India and Bangladesh, and the establishment of alternative supply routes for the northeastern states.