Connecting Regions of Asia.

India-Bangladesh Summit To Open New Chapter

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India and Bangladesh are expected to ink five MoUs at their virtual summit on Thursday (17th December) in the areas of connectivity, agriculture, high community development projects, wildlife conservation among other sectors to upgrade partnership coinciding with the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and 50 years of Bangladesh independence celebrations.
Key outcome of the summit led by the two PMs includes inauguration of Chilahati-Haldibari rail link to push regional connectivity.
India and Bangladesh have been making efforts to enhance transport and connectivity. The leadership on both sides have been committed to reviving and operationalising the 6 pre-1965 rail links between India and Bangladesh. With the inauguration of the Haldibari-Chilahati rail link, 5 out of 6 rail links are currently operational.
Haldibari-Chilahati route will enhance connectivity to Assam and West Bengal from Bangladesh. This rail link will enhance rail network accessibility and support the growth in bilateral trade and economic development of the region. 
Currently, the rail link will facilitate the movement of goods cargo. Passenger movement will also commence on the development of infrastructure on both sides. Work is also progressing on the rail link connecting Agartala and Akhaura.
Bangladesh is commemorating the year 2020 as Mujib Borsho – birth centenary of the father of the nation of Bangladesh – Sheikh Mujibur Rahman popularly known as Bangabandhu. 
He is known for his forceful articulation of the cause of his people and for opposing institutional discrimination. 
This eventually inspired a people’s struggle for rights and fueled the liberation of Bangladesh. Bangabandhu promoted close and friendly relations between India and Bangladesh. He called the people of India the best friends of the people of Bangladesh.
 Delivering his remarks during the commencement of Mujib Borsho on 17 March 2020, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi remarked that Bangabandhu was “one of the greatest personalities of the last century”; and that “his entire life is an inspiration for all”.
In honour of Sheikh Mujib, both Prime Ministers jointly inaugurated a commemorative stamp on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. A total of 500,000 stamps, 30750 First Day Covers and 25610 brochures on Bangabandhu have been issued by the Department of Posts.
Bangladesh is an important neighbour of India. The relations between India and Bangladesh transcend even strategic partnership. In recent past both sides have worked to restore and also develop connectivity links for the benefit of the people on the two sides.
There has been significant advances achieved in the connectivity area in recent months, especially in railway connectivity, connectivity using ports and inland waterways connectivity.
 Both sides have a long standing and time-tested Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT), which was first signed in 1972. It was first renewed in 2015 for a period of five years with a provision for its automatic renewal for a further period of five years. The 2nd Addendum to the PIWTT was signed by both sides on 20 May 2020. 
Through this, two new routes were added to the India – Bangladesh Protocol Routes: Sonamura – Daudkandi and Daudkandi – Sonamura. 
The trial run was successfully completed in September 2020 on this route, thereby connecting Tripura for the first time with the Protocol Route and through this with the National Waterways network through Bangladesh. Bangladesh will also benefit as it creates another viable trade route for them to the north east.
Another recent important development has been the movement of Indian cargo under the Agreement on the use of Chattogram Port in July 2020, to Tripura.
Railway connectivity has been a major focus area for the two countries. progress has been achieved in recent months.
 Firstly, during the COVID-19 related lockdown, both sides facilitated the operationalisation of container and parcel train services in July 2020. Till the end of November, more than 1 million tonnes of cargo has been transported using these services.
“India and Bangladesh should revive all connectivity links that existed before 1965. It is also time to explore new links such as the Tetulia Corridor linking North Dinajpur with Jalpaiguri, thereby bypassing the Chicken’s Neck and reducing travel distance by 86 kilometres.
 Their border areas should be dotted with border haats bringing peace and prosperity to the grassroots. India should provide all necessary assistance to Bangladesh to graduate out of its least developed country status.
 Further economic growth of Bangladesh will help eastern and northeast India to grow more,” according to Bipul Chatterjee, Executive Director, CUTS International, a global public policy think- and action-tank on trade, regulations and governance.

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