Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday described Bangladesh-India relations a crucial factor for common development challenges as she jointly opened with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi two railway projects and an oil pipeline scheme through a video conference.
‘We’ve to work collectively for the development and prosperity for the people of both countries in the new areas, including energy, power, road and rail communications,’ she told the conference from her
Ganobhaban official residence while Modi joined the event from his office in Delhi.
The Bangladesh premier said Bangladesh-India bilateral cooperation had reached to a new height in the past few years while prospects for economic development would substantially be enhanced through such bilateral projects as ‘economic development is the biggest challenge for South Asian countries’.
During the second such video conference between the two premiers, Modi said the two countries achieved tremendous success in several sectors through joint initiatives between the two countries so far and ‘I want to give credit to your able leadership’.
‘Geographically we are neighboring countries. But from our way of thinking and values we share, we are family and helping each other is part of our family values,’ the Indian premier said.
The pipeline would carry petroleum from an oil refinery in India’s Siliguri to Bangladesh’s Parbatipur while the railway projects would yield the 3rd-4th Dual Gauge Line on Dhaka-Tongi Section and Double Line on Dhaka-Joydevpur Section.
Sheikh Hasina sought India’s continued support and cooperation for Bangladesh’s development pursuit after laying the foundation stone of the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline and inaugurating the construction work of two rail projects in Bangladesh.
The Indian premier said, ‘From today, the start of works for Bangladesh-India Friendship Pipeline is going to add a new chapter in the friendship of the two countries.’
‘It will play a huge role in the mega project taken up by the Bangladesh government. This project will strengthen our relationship,’ he said.
The pipeline, Modi said, would specially contribute to fuel supply in a cheaper rate in Bangladesh’s northern part while after its construction with Indian financing, the infrastructure would be handed over to Bangladesh government.
He said Dhaka-Tongi-Joydevpur Railway lines project would not only make the communication easier, but also generate revenues and the projects would help meeting demand of 21st century.
‘These projects are very important . . . I hope such cooperation between Bangladesh and India will continue,’ Modi said.
Sheikh Hasina, on the other hand, said the two countries were working in unity for development and prosperity and uplift of the people of both countries,
‘An excellent environment of bilateral cooperation has been prevailing between us since her government assumed office in 2009. We’ll continue it … I’m quite sure that we will get such many happy events in the days ahead for the welfare of the people of Bangladesh and India,’ she added.
Foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali joined the function from Dhaka, while Indian external affairs minister Sushama Swaraj and petroleum and natural gas minister Dharmendra Prodhan participated in the meeting from New Delhi.
Sheikh Hasina said the mutual cooperation between the two countries enhanced many folds during the last nine and a half years in the fields of security, power and energy, trade, communication, infrastructure development, environment, renewable energy, education, culture, people-to-people contact, health and so on.
The Bangladesh premier said ‘The supply of 500 megawatt electricity and two railway projects were inaugurated on September 10 and just after a week, today we are going to inaugurate another few important joint projects between the two countries.’
She said Bangladesh and Indian people had always been good neighbours.
‘I am recalling with gratitude the sincere cooperation of the government of India and its people during our war of liberation in 1971 led by our father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.’
She said the railway projects would make faster Dhaka’s train communications with south and northwestern regions through Padma Bridge and Bangabandhu Jamuna Bridge and also would make easier railway links with northeastern and southeastern Sylhet and Chittagong regions.
‘A total of 96 kilometres of dual gauge tracks along with other necessary infrastructure will be constructed under the project that stretches from Kamlapur to Joydevpur railway station,’ she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the 130-kilometre India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline from Shiliguri of West Bengal to Parbatipur of Dinajpur in Bangladesh was a new milestone in the history of cooperation between the two countries.
‘This will be first such pipeline through which refined diesel will be supplied to Parbatipur Depot of Dinajpur of Bangladesh from Numaligarh of Assam in India,’ she said.
Initially, she said, Bangladesh would receive 2.5 lakh tonnes of diesel per annum and it will gradually be increased to 4 lakh metric tonnes.
The premier said the first consignment of diesel from India reached Bangladesh in March 2016 through rail wagon.
‘I would like to express my gratitude to the Indian prime minister for his active role in implementing these projects. I also extend my thanks to all concerned associated with the projects in both Bangladesh and India,’ she said.
The prime minister greeted Narendra Modi on the occasion of his birthday that was celebrated on Monday.
Finance minister AMA Muhith, railways minister Md Mazibul Haque, PM’s adviser HT Imam, state minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam, Indian high commissioner Harsh Vardhan Shringla, parliament members, secretaries concerned and senior officials of the PMO were present at the function.
Two short videos on the two projects were presented at the function.
Officials familiar with the pipeline project said it was expected to strengthen Bangladesh’s energy security.
Currently, they said, imported oil by ships was stored in Chattogram depot after unloading in the port there to be brought carried later to Khulna’s Doulatpur Depot through coastal tanks.
‘Again we have to use railway wagons to carry the oil to Parbatipur,’ one official told BSS on the sidelines of the conference adding that this protracted process cost extra time and money alongside transport related hazards.
Bangladesh and India signed an MoU here on April 9 last to set up the 130km oil pipeline aimed at pumping Indian oil to Bangladesh with a capacity of 1 million tonnes per annum.
Earlier, Bangladesh inked a sale and purchase agreement with India on importing diesel through the pipeline on Oct 22 in 2017.
Through the cross-border pipeline, India will supply fuel oil from its Numaligarh Refinery Ltd, located at Golaghat in the north-eastern state of Assam, while Bangladesh would receive the oil at Parbatipur Depot of Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation in north-western district of Dinajpur.
The cost of the 30-month project is Tk 520 crore and of the amount India would provide Rupees 303 crore under the Grant in Aid Program, while the BPC will give Tk 150 crore.
Of the 130-km pipeline, 125-km will be installed at Bangladesh part and the remaining five-km will be set up at India part.
India will supply 2.5 lakh tonnes of diesel for the first three years through the pipeline and the amount will be increased to 4 lakh MT in the last five years.
The import of fuel will be further raised in future through the pipeline as per the requirements of Bangladesh. The NRL will distribute diesel for 15 years through the pipeline and the time could be expanded following the consent of both sides, BPC officials said.
The Parbatipur Depot formally received the first consignment of 2,268 MT diesels from the NRL through rail wagons on March 19, 2016.
Through the rail wagons, Bangladesh so far imported 57,000 MT diesel from India till July 2018 and it is expected that 50,000 more diesel will be brought from India in August-December 2018 through the same way.
Railway officials said over Tk 1,106 crore under Indian Line of Credit (LoC) would be spent for implementing the construction work of the two rail projects.
Under the two schemes, the sources said, 48.80 kilometre two new dual gauge rail lines on Dhaka -Tongi route, while a 12.28-KM new dual gauge railway double line on Tongi-Joydevpur route would be constructed in parallel with the existing rail tracks.
Joint venture company RV Engineers Associate Architectures Pvt Limited and Ayesha Engineering will work as consultant organisations for the projects.
On completion of the schemes, rail communication of Gazipur, Tangail, Narsingdi, Bramhanbaria, Cumilla, Mymensingh and Jamalpur with Dhaka will be improved to a great extent.
As a result, travel time would be reduced on these routes, while the trains could run maintaining schedule set by the Railway authorities.
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