Prime minister Sheikh Hasina, in a video conference with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Monday, said that Bangladesh planned to import 9,000 megawatts of power by 2041 from neighbouring countries and expected New Delhi to support this endeavour.
‘We plan to import 9,000 MW of electricity from our neighbours by 2041 under a regional cooperation framework and I hope that India will be by our side in this endeavour,’ she said while jointly inaugurating three projects in power and railway sectors with Modi.
Sheikh Hasina added that steps had been taken to immediately import 3,000 MW more from India as Bangladesh already imported 660 MW from there.
The Indian prime minister, on the other hand, said that with the opening of the three projects, a golden chapter had been opened.
‘From today, we became closer and our relationship has been deepened further,’ he said.
The Bangladesh premier was at her Ganobhaban official residence during the conference and Modi was at his office in New Delhi while West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb joined the conference from their respective state capitals.
Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Bangladesh foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali also spoke on the occasion.
Two of the projects opened through the conference on Monday were part of the railway sector while the other was part of the power sector cooperation under which India would export an additional 500 MW of power through Behrampore-Bheramara interconnection.
The event marked the inauguration of the Agartala-Akhaura Railway Link and the Kulaura-Shahbazpur rehabilitated section of Bangladesh Railways.
The two prime ministers along with the West Bengal and Tripura chief ministers opened the three projects by unveiling the e-plaques.
Law minister Anisul Haque, railways minister Md Mazibul Haque, PM’s political affairs adviser HT Imam, international affairs adviser Gowher Rizvi and energy adviser Towfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury were present on Bangladesh side during the conference.
State minister for power, energy and mineral resources Nasrul Hamid Bipu, PM’s principal secretary Md Nojibur Rahman, foreign secretary Md Shahidul Haque and Indian high commissioner in Dhaka Harsh Vardhan Shringla were also present at Ganabhaban, among others.
The Bangladesh prime minister thanked Narendra Modi for supporting Bangladesh in its development pursuits particularly in the energy and power sector which she said was as a crucial element of bilateral cooperation.
She said that the West Bengal chief minister by now had pledged to export 1000 MW more electricity to Bangladesh and expected the Indian premier to give his consent in this regard.
Sheikh Hasina said that her government was building 55 additional power plants with 13,690 MW of power generation capacities. ‘But we need more energy to maintain our high economic growth.’
She pointed out that Bangladesh’s power generation capacity had now exceeded 20,000 MW while it was 3,200 MW nine and a half years ago.
In the recent years, she said, the two nations had witnessed remarkable progress in cooperation in a host of areas, including trade and commerce, power and energy, connectivity, infrastructure development and people-to-people interaction.
‘We have maintained our good ties and also ventured into new areas such as blue economy and maritime cooperation, nuclear energy, cyber security, space research and so on,’ she said.
The premier said that the two countries experienced enhanced cooperation in the railway sector as well. ‘And now we are working to re-open pre-1965 railway links for cargo transport between Bangladesh and India.’
Sheikh Hasina said that the Bangladesh-India relationship had become a role model for the rest of the world as it had enabled the two nations to walk through the path of mutual prosperity with firm confidence.
‘Mutual trust, respect and goodwill have made our relations stronger over the years,’ she said and recalled with profound respect the crucial Indian contribution during Bangladesh’s 1971 Liberation War led by the nation’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The Bangladesh premier said that in recent years, the land boundary problem had been solved with unanimous support from all parliament members in India proving that people in India, irrespective of party and opinion, remained united on any issue related to Bangladesh.
The two rail projects — one on the Akhaura-Agartala rail route and another on the Kulaura-Shahbazpur section of Bangladesh Railway — was a testimony of cooperation, Modi said.
The Indian premier highly appreciated Bangladesh premier’s proposal for resumption of the pre-1965 rail routes between the two neighbours and added that India wanted to be a ‘proud partner’ on implementing prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s Vision 2021 and Vision 2041.
Later, the Bangladesh premier exchanged views with the cross section of people in Akhaura, Bheramara and Kulaura.
Officials familiar with the power sector project said that of the 500 MW power to be imported, 300 MW would come from India’s state-run National Thermal Power Plant and 200 MW from the privately-run Power Trading Corporation of India.
Bangladesh imported 660 MW of electricity from India; 500 MW of this supply were added to the national grid in Bheramara of Kushtia from Baharampur of India’s West Bengal state while 160 MW were added to the national grid in Cumilla from India’s Tripura.
Railway officials, on the other hand, said that the rehabilitation of 53 kilometre long Kulaura-Shahbazpur section would be completed at a cost of Tk 678 crore 51 lakh. Of the total amount, Tk 555 crore 99 lakh would be provided by India under its line of credit.
The Bangladesh part of the Akhaura-Agartala rail line and the rehabilitation of Kulaura-Shahbazpur section would be implemented under India’s one billion dollar LoC.
After commissioning of the railway lines, the officials said, Bangladesh-India rail connectivity would be strengthened and it would also boost economic cooperation between the neighbours.