India-Bangladesh Rail Link to Revolutionize Agartala-Kolkata Travel
India and Bangladesh have jointly inaugurated a transformative cross-border rail project that promises to enhance cross-border trade and significantly reduce travel time between Agartala and Kolkata, all through a virtual ceremony.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, celebrated the inauguration of three pivotal projects, which hold immense significance for both nations. One of these projects, the cross-border rail link connecting Tripura’s Nischintapur with Bangladesh’s Gangasagar, is poised to have a profound impact on regional connectivity.
The remaining two projects inaugurated by the leaders are the 65-kilometer Khulna-Mongla Port Rail Line and Unit 2 of the Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant in Bangladesh’s Rampal.
The Agartala-Akhaura Rail Link is expected to usher in a new era of cross-border trade and regional connectivity, with a particular focus on India’s northeastern states. When fully operational, this rail link is anticipated to reduce the travel time between Kolkata and Agartala via Dhaka from a grueling 36 hours to a mere 12 hours, revolutionizing travel between these cities.
Prime Minister Modi underscored the historical significance of the Cross Border Rail Link, labeling it as a momentous achievement. He stated, “It is a matter of joy that we have come together again to celebrate the successful cooperation between India and Bangladesh. Our relationship is touching new highs. Together, we have achieved in the last nine years what has not been achieved in decades.”
These projects align seamlessly with India’s Look East Policy and represent a substantial step toward enhancing connectivity to India’s northeastern regions. India’s commitment to the Bay of Bengal region is further emphasized, with significant implications for organizations like the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), whose secretariat is located in Bangladesh.
The Agartala-Akhaura Rail Link holds particular importance as it establishes the first rail connection between India’s northeastern states and Bangladesh. Prime Minister Modi highlighted the far-reaching impact of these initiatives, especially in times of crises such as the pandemic, when they played a pivotal role in transporting oxygen via dedicated trains.
Over the past nine years, India has demonstrated a steadfast focus on infrastructure and connectivity, initiating various bus and railway services that have linked Dhaka, Shillong, Agartala, Guwahati, and Kolkata. In addition, container and parcel services were initiated in 2020, reinforcing trade and connectivity.
Prime Minister Modi emphasized the significance of the connectivity initiatives, stating, “In the last nine years, four new immigration check posts have been opened on the India-Bangladesh border, and our bilateral trade has nearly tripled. The journey of these nine years has made us reach the inauguration of the Agartala Akhaura Railway Link, and it is a historic moment.”
In response, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reiterated the deep-rooted ties between Bangladesh and India, emphasizing their shared history, culture, and democratic values. She expressed gratitude to India for its contributions to connectivity, trade, and commerce.
The joint inauguration of these projects signifies the strong friendship and collaboration between the two countries, said Prime Minister Hasina. She also extended her appreciation to Prime Minister Modi for his warm hospitality during her visit to New Delhi in September 2023 for the G20 Leaders’ Summit.
These initiatives in the connectivity and power sectors serve as shining examples of cooperation between India and Bangladesh, fostering deeper ties and strengthening regional connectivity. These projects are pivotal for India’s Act East Policy and will serve as a foundation for further cooperation, opening passenger and freight routes between the two nations and providing alternative supply routes for India’s northeastern states.
As the Agartala-Akhaura Rail Link and other associated projects gain momentum, India and Bangladesh are on the path to deeper collaboration and heightened connectivity, further cementing their regional importance.