Bangladesh on Monday received 10 broad gauge locomotives from India in another move of raising railway cooperation in connectivity front between the two neighboring countries sharing more than 4000 km border, the fifth-longest land border in the world.
The Indian government provided the locomotives under its grant assistance progrmme in line with the commitment by New Delhi during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India last October under Indian premier Narendra Modi’s “neighborhood first” policy.
The locomotives were handed at Darshana-Gede Interchange Point while Foreign Minister Dr AK Momen and Railway Minister Md. Nurul Islam Sujan joined from Dhaka and Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaiahshankar and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal joined from Delhi at a virtual handover ceremony.
“This would help bring our two peoples even closer….India-Bangladesh relationship is rock solid,” said Dr Momen at the handing-over ceremony.
He said Dhaka believes “connectivity is productivity” while Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been trying to “expand our connectivity in roads, rail, river routes and heart to heart with our neighbors”.
He said connectivity in the region will unpack numerous opportunities for the people of South Asia including Bangladesh and India as the prospect remains limitless. “We are happy that India partners with Bangladesh in this endeavour,” he added.
Saying that “We are indeed enjoying the best of relations (with India)”, Momen mentioned, this week, for the first time, 50 containers loaded with FMCG cargoes and fabrics arrived in Bangladesh from India through Benapole-Petrapole rail link.
In fact, he said robust safe railway connectivity with lower unit costs is an enabler of economic growth, a platform for uniform development and a catalyst for national integration.
“By handing over the locomotives, we have been able to fulfill an important commitment made during the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India last October,” said Jaishankar.
Recently, India and Bangladesh have stepped up their rail cooperation in mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as trade via land border faced disruptions.
Both sides saw the highest ever exchange of freight trains in the month of June as a total of 103 freight trains were utilized for carrying essential commodities and raw materials.
Bangladesh and India have a total of 8 railway interchange points, of which 4 are now functioning – Petrapole (India) – Benapole (Bangladesh), Gede (India) – Darshana (Bangladesh), Singhabad (India)-Rohanpur (Bangladesh), Radhikapur (India)–Birol (Bangladesh).
Two passenger trains – Bandhan Express [Kolkata-Khulna] (2 days/week) and Maitree Express [Kolkata-Dhaka] (5 days/ week) operate between the two countries, however their movement at the moment has been temporarily suspended due to COVID pandemic.
Of those 4 non-operational points, Chilahati-Haldibari route – currently being revamped by the two countries – will establish rail connectivity with Bhutan through India while Darshana-Khulna-Mongla rail link will provide the shortest path to connect Nepal, Bhutan and North West India.
Indian government sources said a total of 17 railway sector projects have been included in LoC assistance extended by India to Bangladesh, with a commitment of US$ 2.44 billion.
Of these 17 railway sector projects, 9 have been successfully completed including supply of BG/MG locomotives, flat wagons, railway bridges and signaling equipment, among others.
Railway projects under implementation using LoC assistance include- Kulaura-Shahbazpur railway line at a cost of US$ 78 million likely to be completed by end of this year while Khulna-Mongla railway line project along with the bridge worth USD 389 million likely to be completed by June next year.
Three other projects at various stages of implementation pertain to double line track, a conversion of meter gauge line to dual gauge line and a new dual gauge rail line.
Besides, cross border rail link of approximately 12 Kms is being built under Grant-in-Aid between Agartala and Akhaura town on the Dhaka-Chittagong trunk line, to be completed by March 2021 expecting to further enhance freight and passenger connectivity between India and northeastern states.
Source: BSS, Dhaka