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Business News/ News / India/  India, Bangladesh open rail link, power, port projects
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India, Bangladesh open rail link, power, port projects

Akhaura-Agartala will be first railway link from India’s north-eastern states to Bangladesh

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina. (Hindustan Times)Premium
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina. (Hindustan Times)

NEW DELHI : Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday launched three India-assisted development projects, two of which are expected to boost trade and improve connectivity with the Northeastern states. 

“In this journey of nine years, the inauguration of the Akhaura-Agartala rail link today is a historic moment. This is the first rail link from India’s northeastern states to Bangladesh," said Modi at a joint press briefing. The two countries had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to develop the rail link in 2013 with grant assistance from India. According to the ministry of external affairs, India extended almost 400 crore in grant assistance to Bangladesh.

Also inaugurated was the Khulna-Mongla Port rail line project, implemented under Indian concessional credit with a total project cost of $388.92 million.

The project entails construction of approximately 65 km of broad gauge rail route between Mongla Port and the existing rail network in Khulna.

“With this, Mongla, the second largest port of Bangladesh, gets connected with the broad-gauge railway network," said the external affairs ministry.

“Extension of Bangladesh Railway’s railway network up to Mongla Port shall help in minimizing the usage of road transportation for movement of different types of goods through container wagons from Mongla to different parts of the country, as the government of Bangladesh is looking at developing Mongla Port to reduce the dependency on Chittagong port," said a document by India’s EXIM Bank.

As India, Nepal and Bhutan will also be able to use the seaport, the move is expected to boost regional trade in the neighbourhood.

The third project was the Maitree super thermal power plant, which is expected to help Bangladesh meet its growing power needs.

“The current power sources are either highly polluting or inadequate to meet the growing demand of power there (Bangladesh). So, it’s largely diesel- driven. Emissions are quite high. In India, we have had quite a good experience of having thermal power plants operating and providing, on certain occasions, surplus electricity. So, in that context, Bangladesh is going to benefit very substantially by this power plant of 1320 MW," said N. Ramesh, deputy MD of EXIM Bank, in an interview.

The power plant project has been implemented by the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Pvt Ltd. This is a joint venture between the Bangladesh Power Development Board and India’s NTPC.

Besides this, the two sides also agreed to link their payment gateways.

Economic connectivity has been a key focus for New Delhi and Dhaka in recent years. They have revived railway links, expanded bus services and unveiled plans to improve cross-border power and energy trade.

In 2015, the two countries also agreed on a protocol to better utilize inland waterways in order to boost cross-border commerce. Indian officials have also mentioned plans to expand the number of existing border markets to 16, which could have a beneficial impact on trade between border communities.

Besides improving intra-South Asian trade, greater connectivity between India and Bangladesh could also open up global markets.

The establishment of the Matabari Port in Bangladesh by 2027 is also expected to allow for the easier flow of goods from India to Bangladesh and onwards to Asian markets. India and Bangladesh are working with Japan on a “Bay of Bengal Northeast Industrial Value Chain Concept", which aims to attract global manufacturing to India’s Northeast and Bangladesh by relying on this improved connectivity.

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Published: 01 Nov 2023, 11:30 PM IST
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