Sunday 9 May 2021
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India, Bangladesh restore pre-1965 rail link; Modi calls Dhaka key pillar of ‘neighbourhood first’ policy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, on 17 December held a virtual bilateral summit and reviewed ties. Speaking at the summit, Modi described Bangladesh as a significant pillar of India’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy. Modi noted that his government has strived to improve relations with Bangladesh.

“To strengthen relations with Bangladesh has been a priority for me since the first day,” Modi said.

“This year has been full of challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. During this time, there has been good cooperation between our countries in the sphere of working with health professions, Covid-19 vaccine etc,” he noted.

“I must commend you for the manner in which your government has countered Covid-19,” Modi added, appreciating Bangladesh government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

On her part, Hasina, during the summit, described India as a true friend of Bangladesh. She paid homage to the soldiers martyred during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.

“I pay deep homage to the 3 million martyrs who laid their lives. I pay tribute to the members of the Indian armed forces martyred in the 1971 war. I pay my gratitude to the government and people of India who extended wholehearted support for the cause of our liberation,” Hasina said.

She noted that Bangladesh was looking forward to Modi’s visit to the country next year.

“Bangladesh is on the verge of celebrating 50 years as an independent nation. Your visit to Dhaka on 26 March 2021 will be the crowning glory of our joint commemoration of Bangladesh’s Liberation War of 1971,” Hasina said.

During the summit, the two leaders jointly

  • inaugurated the Chilahati-Haldibari rail link between India and Bangladesh
  • released a commemorative stamp on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to commemorate the birth centenary of the father of the nation of Bangladesh
  • and inaugurated the Bangabandhu-Bapu Digital Exhibition to celebrate the life and legacies of the iconic leaders

Modi expressed happiness about getting the opportunity to release a digital exhibition on Mahatma Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman.

“It is a matter of pride for me… they will continue to inspire our youths,” Modi told Hasina.

The Chilahati-Haldibari rail link is a trans-border railway line and it has been restored after 55 years. It is the fifth pre-1965 railway link between the two countries that has been made operational again.

The Chilahati-Haldibari rail link will help improve connectivity between Bangladesh and Indian states of Assam and West Bengal. The rail link was originally part of the broad gauge main route that connected Kolkata and Siliguri.

The restored trans-border rail link will initially facilitate the movement of goods cargo. Later, passenger movement will begin on the route after the necessary infrastructure is put in place on both sides of the border.

An official announcement, meanwhile, stated that India and Bangladesh have signed seven agreements in the areas of hydrocarbons, agriculture, textiles and community development, during the summit.

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