Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen on Monday said leaders of Bangladesh and India pledged on the noble vision of inclusive socioeconomic development, scripting a golden chapter in partnership over the past few years.
"Over the last few years, India and Bangladesh have scripted a golden chapter in partnership under the visionary leadership of prime minister Sheikh Hasina and prime minister of India Narendra Modi," he said.
In a virtual handing over ceremony, 10 broad gauge (BG) locomotives were virtually flagged off to Bangladesh by Indian external affairs minister S Jaishankar and railways and commerce & industry minister Piyush Goyal.
Bangladesh railways minister Nurul Islam Sujan and Indian minister of state for railways Angadi Suresh also joined.
Momen thanked India for offering Bangladesh 10 broad gauge diesel locomotives as a mark of enduring friendship.
This is in line with the commitment by New Delhi during prime minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to India last October and renewed focus on "neighbourhood first" policy of Modi.
"This would help bring our two peoples even closer," the foreign minister said at the handing over ceremony of 10 broad gauge locomotives provided by India.
Indian minister for external affairs, minister for railways of India, railways minister of Bangladesh, secretary, ministry of railways of Bangladesh, Bangladesh high commissioner to India Muhammad Imran and Indian High commissioner to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das also joined.
"We are indeed enjoying the best of relations," Momen said mentioning that this week, for the first time, 50 containers loaded with FMCG cargoes and fabrics arrived in Bangladesh from India through Benapole-Petrapole rail link.
Last week, the first transshipment of goods (iron and pulses) from Kolkata to India's North-East took place through Bangladesh's Chattogram port.
Momen said India-Bangladesh relationship is rock solid and is based on shared values, principles and confidence, touching almost every sphere of our lives, including politics, culture, trade, investment, water, energy, power, transportation, logistics, security and much more.
"I am sure we would be able to further lift our relations to new heights in the coming days," he said.
Momen said they believe "connectivity is productivity" and the visionary prime minister has been trying to expand our connectivity in roads, rail, river routes and heart to heart with our neighbours.
In fact, robust railway connectivity is an enabler of connectivity, an enabler of economic growth, a platform for uniform development and a catalyst for national integration, he said.
Its bulk capacity to traverse long distances with ease and lower unit costs, is further bolstered by safety and dependability, said the foreign minister.
In a fast changing world, swept by unforeseen challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, they cannot take a piecemeal view of the contours of connectivity.
The foreign minister said Bangladesh is also very much part of the UN ESCAP Trans-Asian Railway network, SAARC railway corridors, SASEC railway corridor and BCIM Economic Corridor.
"As we stretch our eyes to capture the bigger picture on this vast canvas, we will pursue the path of shared prosperity through planned and sustainable development of our transport infrastructure - a network that would reach out to the farthest corners of the country, live up to the people's expectations, and be able to cater to their needs," he said.
Connectivity in the region will unpack numerous opportunities for the people of South Asia, said the foreign minister. "No longer do they deserve a substandard living.
The resulting benefits of connectivity ought to permeate all strata of the society as fairly as possible," he said. The prospect remains limitless, Momen said adding that "We are happy that India partners with Bangladesh in this endeavour."
Growing Railway Cooperation
The handing over of these locomotives, under grant assistance from India, fulfills an important commitment made during the visit of Sheikh Hasina to India, in October 2019, said the Indian high commission in Dhaka.
In keeping with the requirements of Bangladesh Railway, the locomotives have been suitably modified by the Indian side. These locomotives will help handle the increasing volume of passenger and freight train operations in Bangladesh.
Speaking on the occasion, external affairs minister Jaishankar highlighted the depth of time tested India-Bangladesh ties, based on mutual trust and respect.
He expressed his happiness that the COVID-19 pandemic had not slowed down the pace of bilateral cooperation and conveyed that he looked forward to more such milestones in the ongoing historic Mujib Barsho.
Piyush Goyal underscored the significance of railway cooperation in enhancing bilateral trade and connectivity and in further boosting the economic partnership between the two countries.
In the recent times, India and Bangladesh have stepped up their rail cooperation in mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as trade via land border faced disruptions.
Rail as a cost effective and environmental friendly solution, has helped in transporting essential commodities across the border. Both sides saw the highest ever exchange of freight trains in the month of June.
A total of 103 freight trains were utilised for carrying essential commodities and raw materials. Recently, parcel and container train services have also commenced between India and Bangladesh. This is expected to significantly enhance the scope of bilateral trade.