Imparting a new impetus to regional connectivity in South Asia, the prime ministers of India and Bangladesh have flagged off another train service that will bolster people-to-people and economic ties between the two countries.The inauguration of the weekly ‘Bandhan Express,’ which will run every Thursday between Kolkata and Khulna, was attended by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee via a video link.”We have inaugurated two rail bridges today (over rivers Meghna and Titaash). Built at a cost of about $100 million (Rs 651.55 crore), the bridges will help strengthen Bangladesh’s rail network. Being a trusted partner in Bangladesh’s development works is a matter of pride for India,” Mr Modi said on November 9.
India and Bangladesh have launched a series of connectivity projects that will considerably ease travel between the two countries. The rail networks linking the two nations have been restored after they were snapped following successive crises in 1947, 1965 and 1971.These projects include the second Bhairab and Titas railway bridges built at the cost of $100 million, the International Rail Passenger Terminus at Chitpur in Kolkata and the Bandhan Express between Kolkata and Khulna which is expected to reduce the travel time by three hours.
“The most important dimension of the connectivity is the people-to-people linkage,” Mr Modi said in a congratulatory message.”I am happy to know that work is in progress in our USD 8 billion concessional finance commitment. Development and connectivity are interconnected and we have taken steps to strengthen the decades-old historical links, specially between the people of West Bengal and Bangladesh”.”We want to cooperate with India and other countries in the immediate neighbourhood for creating an area of peace in South Asia where we can live as good neighbours and pursue constructive policies for our peoples benefit,” Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said. Ms Banerjee also welcomed the project as a positive sign for the growing cooperation between the two nations.
Despite sharing strong historical and socio-cultural ties, the South Asian region has suffered from poor connectivity due to mutual distrust and lack of pragmatic political will. There has been a renewed focus on fostering connectivity through sub-regional groupings like the BBIN. The importance of Bengal as the hub of such a regional grouping cannot be overemphasized given the fact that it is the gateway to the northeast and shares its boundary with India’s immediate eastern neighbours.
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