National, Front Page

Hasina, Modi talk economic integration

Published : 28 Mar 2021 10:16 PM

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi have discussed the ways of enhancing connectivity between the countries and with their neighbours Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Thailand for facilitating regional economic integration for the benefit of all.

They expressed satisfaction at the robust cooperation in the power and energy sector, including between the private sectors and agreed to strengthen sub-regional cooperation, including with Nepal and Bhutan. In this regard, cooperation in energy was underscored.

Bangladesh side requested India for “favourable consideration” of the new connectivity routes proposed, namely allowing additional land ports of Bhadrapur-Bairagi-Galgalia, Biratnagar-Jogmani and Birganj-Raxaul to be connected with Banglabandha-Fulbari and Birol-Radhikapur by road as alternative routes, according to the joint statement issued after the bilateral meeting on Saturday.

Modi was in Dhaka for a two-day state visit on the occasion of the golden jubilee celebration of Bangladesh and the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. This year also marks the 50 years of India, Bangladesh relations.

Both leaders witnessed the signing of five MoUs in the field of disaster management, trade, National Cadet Corps, ICT, and sports.

They also inaugurated ‘Mitali Express’ - passenger train service on Dhaka-New Jalpaiguri-Dhaka route through Chilahati-Haldibari rail link. Announcement of linking the historic road between Mujibnagar and Nadia and naming it as Shadhinota Shorok was also made.

Prime Minister Hasina offered the use of Chattogram and Sylhet International Airport, by the people of North East India, especially of Tripura. Bangladesh also informed that Saidpur Airport is being developed as a regional airport for the use of the people of this region.

India was also requested to consider connecting Birol-Radhikapur and Rohanpur-Singhabad rail-interchanges with Biratnagar-Jogmani as this would help reduce the distance and cost of transportation of goods by rail from Bangladesh to Nepal.

The Bangladesh side also sought rail connectivity with Bhutan through the newly inaugurated Chilahati-Haldibari route to facilitate rail connectivity with Bhutan.

The Indian side requested the Bangladesh side for cooperation in establishing connectivity between Guwahati and Chattogram and also from Mahendraganj in Meghalaya to Hili in West Bengal. The Bangladesh side requested the Indian side for a detailed proposal in this regard.

India expressed gratitude for Prime Minister Hasina’s initiative of revitalising the pre-1965 rail connectivity as well as for Bangladesh’s support for the numerous connectivity initiatives through rail, road and waterways.

In the same spirit, Bangladesh reiterated its eagerness to partner in the ongoing initiative of the India – Myanmar - Thailand trilateral highway project.

To facilitate better connectivity and simplify movement of passengers and goods between both the countries, both leaders agreed to an early operationalisation of the BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement through expeditious signing of the Enabling MoU for Bangladesh, India, and Nepal to commence the movement of goods and passengers, with provision for Bhutan to join at a later date.

Highlighting the benefits of connectivity and the trial run of trans-shipment of Indian goods from Kolkata to Agartala via Chattogram, the India side urged for early operationalisation of the Agreement on the use of Chattogram and Mongla Ports for the Movement of Goods to and from India, including finalisation of cost effective pricing and regulatory orders.

The Indian side requested for transshipment arrangement in Munshiganj and Pangaon as part of the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade until the completion of the bilateral project to develop Ashuganj Container Terminal. Bangladesh side informed the infrastructure limitations in this regard and that work is being planned for upgradation of the facilities, according to the joint statement.

Prime Minister Modi recalled the recent inauguration of the Maitree Shetu over River Feni and appreciated Bangladesh’s support in materialising this crucial connectivity project.

Prime Minister Hasina stated that inauguration of the Feni bridge is a testament to the Bangladesh government’s continued commitment to support initiatives to strengthen connectivity and economic integration in the region, particularly for the North-East of India. Both sides agreed to develop remaining trade and travel infrastructure to facilitate the optimal usage of this new bridge.

With the vaccination drive being in full swing in both countries, both sides agreed to explore resuming regular air travel and lifting restrictions for movement through land ports at the earliest as well as to operationalise the train and bus services between the two countries at the earliest.

The Indian side emphasised that finalisation of regulations and guidelines for cross border trade in electricity would increase sub-regional cooperation, according to the joint statement.

India requested early finalisation of modalities for implementation of the Katihar – Parbotipur – Barnagar cross border electricity interconnection.

Both sides welcomed the establishment of a study team in this regard. Both sides took stock of progress in the implementation of the India Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline and unit-1 of the Maitree Super Thermal Power Project and expressed hope that these projects would get commissioned soon.

Recalling that the Framework of Understanding on Cooperation in the Hydrocarbon Sector had been signed in December, both leaders urged the relevant authorities to implement the institutional arrangement at the earliest, which will further enhance bilateral cooperation in this important sector.