Bangladesh reiterates eagerness to join India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Saturday reiterated the importance of enhancing connectivity for facilitating regional economic integration for the benefit of all parties involved.
To facilitate better connectivity and simplify movement of passengers and goods between the two neighbouring 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.
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, according to a joint statement issued on the occasion of the visit of prime minister of India to Bangladesh.
In the same spirit, Bangladesh reiterated its eagerness to partner in the ongoing initiative of the India–Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway project.
Bangladesh side also requested India for favourable consideration of the new connectivity routes proposed by Bangladesh, 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.
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.
Bangladesh side also sought rail connectivity with Bhutan through the newly inaugurated Chilahati-Haldibari route.
Indian side requested the Bangladesh side for cooperation in establishing connectivity between Guwahati and Chittagong and also from Mahendraganj in Meghalaya to Hili in West Bengal.
Bangladesh side requested the Indian side for a detailed proposal in this regard.
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 upgrading the facilities.
Prime Minister Modi recalled the recent inauguration of the Maitree Shetu over Feni River 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 Bangladesh government’s continued commitment to support initiatives to strengthen connectivity and economic integration in the region, particularly for the northeast of India.
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Both sides agreed to develop remaining trade and travel infrastructure to facilitate the optimal usage of this new bridge.
Sheikh Hasina offered the use of Chittagong and Sylhet international airports by the people of northeast India, especially Tripura. Bangladesh also informed that Saidpur Airport is being developed as a regional airport for the use of the people of this region.
With the vaccination drive 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.
Noting that the full resumption of travel will depend on the Covid situation, the Indian side expressed hope that full scale travel will resume soon.
Cooperation for mutual benefit
Recognizing the ongoing cooperation between the two countries in the sector of education, the two prime ministers reaffirmed their commitment to widening this cooperation for mutual benefit.
They appreciated the various collaborative arrangements between the universities and educational institutes of the two countries.
Both leaders directed their authorities concerned for early conclusion of the MoU on Mutual Recognition of Academic Qualifications.
Bangladesh side offered to conduct short-term exchange programmes for interested Indian youth in areas such as fisheries, agriculture, disaster management, SMEs and women empowerment.
Both sides reiterated the desire to continue regular exchanges to promote culture, education, science and technology, youth and sports and mass media.
Modi paid a state visit to Bangladesh from March 26 to 27 at the invitation of Hasina to join the celebrations of the Golden Jubilee of Independence, the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 50 years of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Bangladesh.
The visit symbolized the partnership of half-a-century between India and Bangladesh that has strengthened, matured and evolved as a model for bilateral relations for the entire region.
During the visit, Modi called on President Abdul Hamid.
Modi joined the National Day programme, Golden Jubilee celebrations and Mujib Borsho celebration at the National Parade Ground as the guest of honour on Friday.
Foreign Minister Dr Momen called on the prime minister of India on Friday.