Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina on Saturday virtually inaugurated the ‘Mitali Express’ passenger train between Dhaka and New Jalpaiguri on Saturday.
Speaking at a press briefing, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said that the Bangladeshi Prime Minister lauded India’s ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’ and said that “India sending COVID-19 vaccines to its neighbours is a reflection of that policy. “To further strengthen the people to people connectivity, the two sides have agreed to start a new passenger train service which is called ‘Mitali Express’ between New Jalpaiguri and Dhaka cantonment on the Chilahati-Haldibari rail link,” Shringla said.
“It is a very important rail link that connects north Bangladesh with north Bengal. Starting off this passenger service is really a recreation of what used to happen in 1965. The trains will commence operations once normal train services resume between the two countries,” he added.
The joint statement issued after talks between the two leaders said they inaugurated the train.
“Inauguration of ‘Mitali Express’ – passenger train service on Dhaka-New Jalpaiguri-Dhaka route through Chilahati-Haldibari rail link,” it said.
As per Bangladeshi media reports, the Mitali Express was jointly inaugurated by Modi and Hasina at 6:38 pm on Saturday from the Prime Minister’s Office in Tejgaon via a video conference.
India, Bangladesh to recognise Dec 6 as ‘Maitri Diwas’
India and Bangladesh have decided to celebrate December 6, the day on which India formally recognized Bangladesh, as ‘Maitri Diwas’, a joint statement issued after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka on Saturday stated.
According to the joint statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, Prime Minister Modi highlighted that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, one of the greatest leaders of modern times, will be remembered for his courage and indelible contribution to Bangladesh’s emergence as a sovereign country. MEA stated that PM Modi also recalled the contribution of Bangabandhu in nurturing peace, security and development in the region.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina thanked India for conferring Gandhi Peace Prize for the year 2020 on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in recognition of his outstanding contributions towards the social, economic and political transformation of Bangladesh through non-violent and other Gandhian methods.
“To mark the 50th anniversary of India-Bangladesh friendship, both sides released respective commemorative postage stamps. It was decided to commemorate 6 December as Maitri Diwas, the day when India recognized Bangladesh in the year 1971. The Indian side announced the establishment of Bangabandhu Chair at the University of Delhi,” the statement read.
In view of the 50th anniversary of the Independence of Bangladesh as well as the establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties, both sides have agreed to jointly commemorate these epochal events in 19 select countries.
“Both sides noted with satisfaction that the filming of the biopic on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, under the direction of Indian film director Shyam Benegal, has commenced and is expected to be completed according to schedule. Both sides stressed the need to commence work on the Liberation War documentary at the earliest,” MEA stated.
The ministry further noted that both sides noted with appreciation the participation of a 122-member tri-services contingent of the Bangladesh Armed Forces in the 2020 Republic Day celebrations of India.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended an invitation to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to visit India in 2022 in commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Both sides welcomed the port call by Indian Naval Ships Sumedha and Kulish on 08-10 March 2021 at Mongla upon the invitation of Bangladesh as part of the commemoration of the epochal occasions. This was the first-ever visit to Mongla Port by any Indian Naval Ship. Bangladesh Navy Ship is also scheduled to make a port call at Vishakhapatnam as part of the joint celebrations,” the statement read.
The Bangladesh side welcomed the decision of the Government of India to announce 1000 Shuborno Jayanti Scholarships for Bangladeshi students for pursuing education/courses in India.
Bangladesh Prime Minister thanked the Indian side for considering Bangladesh’s proposal to name the historic road from Mujib Nagar to Nadia on the Bangladesh-India border as “Shadhinota Shorok” commemorating the historic significance of the road during Bangladesh’s Liberation War. Both sides looked forward to inaugurating the road soon as part of the joint celebrations.
On the subject of water resources cooperation, the MEA said that Hasina reiterated Bangladesh’s long-pending request for concluding the interim agreement on the sharing of the waters of the Teesta river. She underscored that to alleviate the sufferings and save the livelihoods of millions of people dependent on the Teesta river basin, it is necessary that Bangladesh receives its fair share of the Teesta waters, the draft agreement of which has already been agreed upon by both Governments in January 2011.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated India’s sincere commitment and continued efforts to conclude this agreement, in consultation with the relevant stakeholders. The Indian side also requested for early finalization of the draft of the interim agreement for sharing of water of Feni River, pending with the Bangladesh side which had been agreed upon by both sides in 2011,” the statement read.
The Ministry stated that to enhance trade between the two countries, both Prime Ministers underscored the need for the removal of non-tariff barriers. Bangladesh side requested for lifting the new policy of Indian Customs stipulating verification of certificates of origin issued from Bangladesh.
“The Indian side conveyed that under the provisions of the new Customs rules, in the event of a conflict between a provision of these rules and rules of origin of a trade agreement, the provisions of the rules of origin of the trade agreement shall prevail. Further, for bilateral trade to flourish, both leaders stressed the need for predictability of trade policies, regulations and procedures,” the ministry’s statement read.
The MEA said that both sides took note of the first meeting of the High-Level Monitoring Committee and directed the Committee to provide recommendations for the expeditious execution of projects under the Lines of Credit.
“Both sides expressed satisfaction at the robust cooperation in the power and energy sector, including between the private sectors. It was agreed to strengthen sub-regional cooperation, including with Nepal and Bhutan and in this regard cooperation in energy was underscored. The Indian side emphasized that the finalization of regulations and guidelines for cross-border trade in electricity would increase sub-regional cooperation. India requested early finalization of modalities for implementation of the Katihar – Parbotipur – Bornagar cross border electricity interconnection,” the statement read.
Both sides welcomed the establishment of a study team in this regard. Both sides took stock of progress in the implementation of the India Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline and unit-1 of the Maitree Super Thermal Power Project and expressed hope that these projects would get commissioned soon, according to MEA.
Both sides took note of the first meeting of the High-Level Monitoring Committee and directed the Committee to provide recommendations for the expeditious execution of projects under the Lines of Credit.
New Delhi and Dhaka expressed satisfaction at the robust cooperation in the power and energy sector, including between the private sectors. It was agreed to strengthen sub-regional cooperation, including with Nepal and Bhutan and in this regard cooperation in energy was underscored.
The Indian side emphasized that the finalization of regulations and guidelines for cross-border trade in electricity would increase sub-regional cooperation. India requested early finalization of modalities for implementation of the Katihar – Parbotipur – Bornagar cross border electricity interconnection.
“Both sides welcomed the establishment of a study team in this regard. Both sides took stock of progress in the implementation of the India Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline and unit-1 of the Maitree Super Thermal Power Project and expressed hope that these projects would get commissioned soon,” MEA read.
Bangladesh’s side highlighted that Biosecurity Cooperation is an area that may be explored by both sides as the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed that without meaningful biosecurity measures, economic prosperity is at stake, given the interconnected nature of trans-boundary trade and people to people contacts between the two countries. “The two Prime Ministers appreciated the collaboration and active participation under different mechanisms between the Indian Council of Medical Research, India and, Bangladesh Medical Research Council, Bangladesh,” MEA stated.
On the issue of new areas of cooperation, both sides acknowledged the potential of new and emerging areas of cooperation in bilateral cooperation and directed authorities on both sides to focus on and augment cooperation in cutting edge areas of science, artificial intelligence, peaceful uses of nuclear technology, big data, and technology-enabled services in health and education.
“To facilitate further youth exchanges between the two countries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited 50 young entrepreneurs from Bangladesh to visit India and present their ideas to venture capitalists,” the statement read.