Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh jointly inaugurated three Indian-assisted development projects on November 1, 2023, via video conferencing. These projects mark a milestone in the growing partnership between the two nations and are aimed at boosting cross-border trade, improving rail connectivity, and enhancing energy security in the region.
The Akhaura-Agartala Cross-Border Rail Link project, funded by an Indian grant of ₹392.52 crore, is an initiative that promises to boost cross-border trade and reduce travel time between Agartala and Kolkata via Dhaka.
This rail link is part of India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy, which emphasizes fostering strong ties with neighboring countries.
The rail link’s completion holds significance as it re-establishes a direct rail connection between India and Bangladesh after a long hiatus.
The project is crucial for the northeastern region of India, which had been geographically isolated, and it offers an efficient route for trade and connectivity.
The Khulna-Mongla Port Rail Line Project is another development aimed at enhancing connectivity and trade in the region.
With a total cost of $388.92 million, this project involves constructing a 65 km broad gauge rail route connecting Mongla Port to the existing rail network in Khulna.
This connection, allowing the second-largest port in Bangladesh, Mongla Port, to be part of the broad-gauge railway network.
The inclusion of Mongla Port in the railway network reduces the time and cost associated with transporting goods to the landlocked northeastern states of India.
This development strengthens the economic ties between India and Bangladesh, facilitating smoother trade and commerce.
The Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant, a 1320 MW power generation facility located in Rampal, Khulna Division of Bangladesh, plays a main role in energy security in the region.
Under the Indian Concessional Financing Scheme, this project received a loan of $1.6 billion. It is implemented by the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Limited, a joint venture between India’s NTPC Ltd and the Bangladesh Power Development Board.
The completion of Unit-II of the Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant represents a milestone in the generation and distribution of electricity in Bangladesh.
It contributes to the country’s energy security and promotes sustainable development. The inauguration of these three projects marks a historic moment in the relationship between India and Bangladesh.
Over the past decade, the Bangladesh-India Friendship Dialogue has served as a platform for strengthening bilateral relations.
The theme of this year’s Dialogue, ‘Fostering a comprehensive and mutually beneficial partnership,’ reflects the commitment of both nations to deepening their ties.
The Akhaura-Agartala rail link project is a testament to the friendship between India and Bangladesh. It was initiated during the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to New Delhi in January 2010 when the two countries agreed to lay tracks from Akhaura in Brahmanbaria to Nischintapur in Agartala.
The construction of this 15.064-kilometer-long new railway line commenced in 2018, with 5.05 kilometers in India and the remaining 10.014 kilometers in Bangladesh.
This project carries historical significance, as it revives cross-border rail links that had been closed since the 1965 war with Pakistan.
The reopening of these links symbolizes the commitment of both nations to strengthen their connectivity and cooperation in the modern era.
The ‘Act East Policy’ is the main component of India’s foreign policy, and these projects exemplify its practical application.
The policy seeks to promote economic, strategic, and cultural ties with countries in East and Southeast Asia. It places an emphasis on partnerships, connectivity, and integration with neighboring countries.
The Akhaura-Agartala rail link is a prime example of how this policy is being implemented. It not only strengthens ties with Bangladesh but also opens up opportunities for cooperation with other countries in the region, including Myanmar, Thailand, and beyond.
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