In a significant stride towards bolstering cross-border trade and connectivity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, jointly inaugurated three pivotal projects via virtual mode. The spotlight was on the cross-border rail project, which will bridge the gap between Tripura’s Nischintapur and Bangladesh’s Gangasagar, with the potential to revolutionize trade routes and significantly reduce travel time between Agartala and Kolkata via Dhaka once it’s fully operational.
The other two projects unveiled during this momentous occasion were the 65-km Khulna-Mongla Port Rail Line and Unit 2 of the Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant in Bangladesh’s Rampal region. These initiatives hold immense significance, not only for India’s “Look East Policy” but also for enhancing connectivity to the northeastern regions, which have long relied on the slender Siliguri Corridor, also known as the Chicken’s Neck.
The inauguration of the cross-border rail project near Tripura’s capital, Agartala, and Akhaura in Bangladesh marks a historic achievement. Upon completion, it promises to reduce the arduous travel time from Kolkata to Agartala from 36 hours to just 12 hours, earning praise from Prime Minister Modi, who hailed the moment as “historic.”
The significance of these projects extends beyond India and Bangladesh, positively impacting the Bay of Bengal region. Organizations such as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), with its secretariat in Bangladesh, benefit from India’s commitment to fostering regional cooperation.
During the inauguration of the Agartala-Akhaura Rail Link, Prime Minister Modi highlighted the tangible impact of these projects, especially in the context of the pandemic, when they facilitated the movement of oxygen trains. Notably, this rail link represents the first-ever connection between India’s northeastern states and Bangladesh, marking a pivotal achievement in cross-border infrastructure.
Over the past nine years, both nations have prioritized infrastructure and connectivity. Several new bus services and railway connections have been established, linking major cities and regions. Container and parcel services commenced in 2020, further enhancing connectivity between the two countries.
In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, these connectivity initiatives served as a lifeline, underlining the importance of regional cooperation during challenging times.
The collaborative efforts have borne fruit, with the opening of four new immigration check posts along the India-Bangladesh border and nearly tripling of bilateral trade. This journey of progress culminated in the inauguration of the Agartala-Akhaura Railway Link, symbolizing a historic milestone in India-Bangladesh relations.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reiterated the deep-rooted ties between the two countries, grounded in shared history, culture, language, and values such as secularism and democracy. Bangladesh places great importance on its relationship with India, emphasizing connectivity, trade, and commerce. She expressed gratitude for India’s contributions in these vital sectors and extended Diwali greetings.
The joint inauguration of these projects underscores the strength of the friendship and collaboration between the two nations. It sets the stage for increased cooperation and the opening of passenger and freight routes between India and Bangladesh, as well as alternative supply routes for the northeastern states.
In sum, the inauguration of these projects represents a significant stride towards enhancing regional connectivity and cooperation, strengthening the bonds between India and Bangladesh, and realizing the potential of cross-border trade and development.