India-Bangladesh rail link: Chilahati-Haldibari track inaugurated, to increase trade and people-to-people connect

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Updated: Dec 17, 2020 2:15 PM

Sources have confirmed to Financial Express Online “ The efforts are being made to further enhance transport and connectivity between the two countries. And, with the recent inauguration of the Haldibari-Chilahati rail link, five out of six rail links are now operational.”

India has as per its commitment to Bangladesh in 2019, has handed over ten Broad Gauge locomotives in July 2020. (Photo source: PTI

For further enhancing rail connectivity India and Bangladesh have decided to reviving and operationalising the six pre-1965 rail links between the two sides. Sources have confirmed to Financial Express Online “ The efforts are being made to further enhance transport and connectivity between the two countries. And, with the recent inauguration of the Haldibari-Chilahati rail link, five out of six rail links are now operational.”

Which are the other four rail links which are operational?

According to sources the other links include — West Bengal with Bangladesh are Petrapole (India) – Benapole (Bangladesh); Gede (India) – Darshana (Bangladesh); Singhabad (India)-Rohanpur (Bangladesh); and Radhikapur (India)–Birol (Bangladesh).

More about Haldibari-Chilahati rail link

This rail link was part of the Broad Gauge main route from Kolkata to Siliguri.

The war of 1965, however, effectively cut off all the railway links. And now, to revive the erstwhile rail link, and connecting people of the two countries, the rail link has been restored.

The Haldibari-Chilahati route is expected to enhance the connectivity to Assam and West Bengal from Bangladesh. And will not only enhance rail network accessibility and but will also support the growth in bilateral trade and economic development of the region.

The Karimganj – Mahisashan rail link which is on the Assam side is expected to be operational by 2022. And, the new rail link between Akhaura (Bangladesh) and Agartala which is being financed under grant assistance from India, is likely to be operational by end 2021.

India has as per its commitment to Bangladesh in 2019, has handed over ten Broad Gauge locomotives in July 2020.

What is the status today?

Presently, the rail link will facilitate the movement of goods cargo, and the passenger movement will also commence on the development of infrastructure on both sides. Railway connectivity has been a major focus area for the two countries, and a lot of progress has been made in recent months. As reported earlier, during the COVID-19 related global lockdown, the two countries facilitated the operationalisation of container and parcel train services in July 2020.

“Work is additionally progressing on the rail link connecting Agartala and Akhaura,” sources have confirmed.

India-Bangladesh Relations

Both are the fastest growing economies in South Asia, and soon neighbouring Bangladesh is expected to graduate from the LDC status to a developing country by 2024. The GDP per capita is also projected to rise fast in the coming years.

As has been reported earlier, both countries are leading in the new and emerging market segments and it was in this context that in today’s summit talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh also discussed cooperation in the areas of ICT and Artificial Intelligence.

Importance of Connectivity

For India, Bangladesh is an important neighbour and their relations transcend even strategic partnership. In the last few years, both countries have worked towards restoring and developing connectivity links for the benefit of the people on the two sides.

Major advances have been made in the connectivity area, especially in the recent months – railway, ports, and inland waterways.

The two countries have a long-standing and time-tested Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT). This protocol which was first signed in 1972, was for the first time renewed in 2015 and has a provision for an automatic renewal for another five years.

Financial Express Online had reported earlier this summer that the 2nd Addendum to the PIWTT was signed by both sides (May 20, 2020). This led to the addition of two more new routes to the India – Bangladesh Protocol Routes: Sonamura – Daudkandi and Daudkandi – Sonamura.

The trials of these new routes were successfully completed in September this year and now Tripura has for the first time connected with the Protocol Route and through this with National Waterways network through Bangladesh. This will help in creating another viable trade route for trade between Bangladesh and the North East region in India.

Another major development has been the movement of Indian cargo under the Agreement on the use of Chattogram Port in July 2020, to Tripura.

Currently, both sides are in the process of finalizing passenger and cargo protocols, and efforts to improve road connectivity has been stepped up between the two countries, and this includes discussions in the BBIN format. In fact, the last meeting of the BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) was held in February 2020 in New Delhi.

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