Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day Bangladesh visit, experts and top officials of the two neighbours felt that India-Bangladesh relations are further improving as the new connectivity projects are being operationalised.
In connection with the three events, Prime Minister Modi would be visiting Bangladesh, second time in six years after 2015, on Friday-Saturday at the invitation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Modi’s two-day visit is in connection with the commemoration of ‘Mujib Borsho’, the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, 50-years of the establishment of diplomatic ties between India and Bangladesh and golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s liberation war.
India’s External Affairs Ministry’s Director (Bangladesh-Myanmar) Kartik Pande said that growing connectivity projects facilitate further coming closer of the two neighbours.
Participating in a virtual discussion on Wednesday Pande highlighted the recently inaugurated “Maitre Setu” over the Feni river between Sabroom (Tripura) and Ramgarh (Bangladesh).
“Tripura would be northeast India’s gateway to Bangladesh,” he added.
On March 9, Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually opened the 1.888 km bridge in southern Tripura’s Sabroom, which is 72 km by road from the Chittagong sea port.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also virtually addressed the function organised to inaugurate the double lane Feni bridge named “Maitre Setu” (friendship bridge).
The government owned National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) has constructed the vital bridge at a cost of around Rs 129 crore and the 1,476 metre stretch of approach roads, of which 1,193 metre falls in the Indian territory and the remaining 283 metre is in Bangladesh.
The Feni bridge would enormously facilitate transportation of goods and heavy machinery to and from the Northeastern states from various parts of the country and abroad using the Chittagong sea port, Kolkata port and other ports in India and Bangladesh.
Saying that Bangladesh lies at the intersection of India’s “Act-East and Neighbourhood first policies”, Pande said that the government’s initiatives are on to restore the physical connectivity of pre-partition times and more such steps in this direction.
Participating in the virtual discussion, former Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Mohammad Shahidul Haque said that Bangladesh-India relationship is at the centre of Bangladesh’s foreign policy.
Haque, currently Professorial Fellow of Bangladesh’s North South University also stressed the need to work for developing a better narrative around shared borders, bringing border killings to zero and suggested innovative projects such as a university located at the border where communities from both countries can be benefitted.
The virtual dialogue titled “50 Years of Bangladesh: India-Bangladesh Relations: New Avenues and the Way Forward” was organised on Wednesday by Shillong-based think-tank and research group Asian Confluence as a run up to Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Bangladesh.
Economic Advisor to Bangladesh Prime Minister Mashiur Rahman in his speech highlighted that India-Bangladesh relation has moved towards a much deeper and border aspect of cooperation and suggested that the next step should be deeper cooperation in water sharing and water resource management amongst other areas.
‘Asian Confluence’s Executive Director Sabyasachi Dutta said that ‘the ongoing efforts being made by governments in both countries need to be complimented by more vibrant people to people and institutional exchanges and collaborations to converge physical connectivity with psychological connectivity and bring about the next phase of growth’.
In the online dialogue, the panelists included Prof. Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue, Dhaka, Prof. Prabir De, ASEAN-India Center, RIS, New Delhi, Gautam Lahiri, eminent journalist, Smruti S. Pattanaik, Research Fellow, MP-IDSA, New Delhi.
The dialogue was chaired by Asian Confluence’s Governing Council member Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia.
The experts also discussed various developmental issues and the future opportunities for strengthening the India-Bangladesh collaboration.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at [email protected])