Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said Bangladesh wanted to cooperate with India and other neighbouring countries for creating a “peace area” in South Asia where everyone would live together as good neighbours and pursue constructive policies for the benefit of all.
She was addressing a programme at the Gono Bhaban marking the inauguration of the end-to-end immigration and customs of Maitree Express, flagging off Bandhan Express (Khulna-Kolkata) and launching of train communication on the newly-built 2nd Bhairab and 2nd Titas railway bridges, reports UNB.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee joined the programme through videoconference.
Hasina said there has been an excellent relationship between Bangladesh and India and continuation of such ties is very much essential.
In this regard, the PM mentioned about the vision of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who had conceived the idea of regional cooperation in 1972. “This remains our constant guide. I'm sure these connectivity initiatives will further consolidate this vision.”
With the inauguration of these services, a new door of relationship has been opened up between the two countries, she said, adding that the relationship would be further strengthened in future.
Hasina said Bangladesh-India relations were in fact setting new high standards of bilateral cooperation in the region and beyond. “I'm sure we would be having many more similar, happy occasions in the days ahead for the greater benefit of our peoples.”
She said it was yet another happy occasion in Bangladesh-India relations. “On this important day, I'm extremely happy to join your Excellency to formally launch the end-to-end immigration and customs of Dhaka-Kolkata Maitree Express and flagging off Khulna-Kolkata Bandhan Express service.”
The PM said these initiatives along with a new International Passenger Terminal at Chitpur, Kolkata would facilitate comfortable journey between Dhaka-Kolkata and Khulna-Kolkata.
She expressed optimism that these services would give a boost to cultural exchanges and tourism between the people of the two countries.
Hasina said the two neighbours were having wonderful cooperation in the railways sector. “Since 2009, it has been strengthened further. Our two countries are also working to re-open our pre-1965 rail links for cargo transport between Bangladesh and India.”
She thanked the Indian government for supporting the railways projects through the Line of Credit (LoC) funds.
Mentioning that connectivity is one of the main pillars of the Indo-Bangla bilateral cooperation, she said, “Our two countries are not only connected through rail, road, inland water and air, but we are connected through internet bandwidth, coastal routes, power grid as well.”
These new modes of connectivity were adding diverse dimensions to India-Bangladesh connectivity architecture. She expressed happiness that the countries recently extended their connectivity to space.
Hasina also extended a belated happy Diwali to Modi, Mamata, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and the people of India.
She invited Modi, Mamata and Sushma to visit Bangladesh.
'INDIA IS A RELIABLE PARTNER'
The Indian PM said the launch of the first passenger train service between Kolkata and Khulna and three other key connectivity projects marked yet another step towards revival of the physical connectivity that had existed between the two neighbours before 1965, reports our New Delhi correspondent.
“Whenever we talk of connectivity, I am always reminded of the vision to revive the pre-1965 connectivity. I am happy we are taking relentless strides in that direction,” Modi said.
He said India takes pride in being a “reliable partner” in Bangladesh's development. The 2nd Bhairab and 2nd Titas railway bridges would help strengthen the rail network of the latter, he added.
The Indian PM said development and connectivity were linked with each other and the ties between India and Bangladesh, particularly between the people of West Bengal and Bangladesh, were decades old.
India and Bangladesh would touch a “new sky” of development and prosperity as the bilateral ties are being taken forward and people-to-people relations are further strengthened, he added.
Modi said the relations between the leaders of the neighbouring countries should be like the true meaning of the word “neighbour” and they should speak to each other and visit each other whenever they feel like and no protocol should come in the way.
Recalling that he and Hasina had used videoconferencing facility to jointly launch the South Asian Satellite and the integrated check-post at Petrapole-Benapole border earlier this year, the Indian PM said he was happy to once again get the opportunity to inaugurate a series of key connectivity projects.
Earlier, Modi began his speech breaking into Bangla. “Aaj ei shubho uplokkhe dui deshbashider amar abhinandan janai. Aaj amader moitree, bandhon aro sudriro holo.”
Indian external affairs minister also joined the videoconference yesterday.
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, PM's Economic Affairs Adviser Moshiur Rahman, Political Affairs Adviser HT Imam, State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam, Indian High Commissioner to Dhaka Harsh Vardhan Shringla and secretaries concerned were present at the Gono Bhaban.
The two railway bridges have been built at a cost of $100 million, which has been met from India's $8 billion soft loan to Bangladesh.
The bridges will reduce travel time between Dhaka and Chittagong and Dhaka and Sylhet and trains using dual gauge and broad gauge tracks will be able to run on them.
Our Benaploe correspondent adds: The Bondhon Express began its trial run from Kolkata with an 18-member Indian delegation on board. The train reached Benapole at 1:30pm.
Asim Kumar Saha, deputy regional manager of Bangladesh Railway, described the trial run of the train as a milestone.
Railway sources said the new train would start its commercial operation from November 16.
The Bandhan Express is scheduled to ply the route every Thursday. It will start from Kolkata at 6:00am and reach Khulna at 1:00pm.
On the return trip, it will leave Khulna at 1:30pm and reach Kolkata at 8:30pm on the same day.
The ticket fare has been fixed at Tk 1,500 for each passenger of AC compartment and Tk 2,000 for each travelling in AC cabin.