Indian Railways will be handing over 10 locomotives to its Bangladeshi counterpart on Monday as part of a previous commitment. The India-Bangladesh container train service on the other hand, will lower import-export costs and improve trade between the two countries.
The first-ever container train from India arrived at Benapole in Bangladesh on Sunday, indicating furtherance of the Indian foreign policy that has come to be known as ‘neighbourhood-first’.
After beginning its journey from Majerhat station near Kolkata in West Bengal on Friday, the train with 50 containers reached its destination with a consignment of soaps, shampoos, and other FMCG items along with textile fabric.
This container train is going to be a regular service connecting various terminals of Indian Railways network to Bangladesh, an official told India Today. It will connect nominated terminals of Concor (Container Corporation of India) to Benapole, Jessore, Singia, Noapara and Bangabandhu Setu West railway stations in Bangladesh.
Concor India had signed an MoU with the Bangladesh Container Company Ltd in 2017. A trial run of the first container train was staged in April 2018 from Kolkata to Bangabandhu Setu West railway station.
Despite reports of growing Chinese influence in countries considered India’s closest territorial allies, the relationship between New Delhi and Dhaka remains steadfast. This new railway infrastructure will only lead to an improvement in ties between the two countries.
In addition, this service will encourage traders and businessmen to consider India for import purposes owing to low transportation cost of products.
In comparison with roadways, the container train will lead to a five-fold reduction in the cost of import-export between the two countries, reducing the rate from Rs 7,000 per tonne to Rs 1,500 per tonne.
An average lorry takes 15 days to transport goods from India to Bangladesh. With this container train service, goods can reach Bangladesh within 25-48 hours.
India to hand over 10 locomotives to Bangladesh
India will be handing over 10 broad-gauge diesel locomotives to Bangladesh on Monday. The event will be conducted via video conference in the presence External Affairs Minister (EAM) Dr S Jaishankar and his Bangladeshi counterpart Abdul Momen along Bangladesh’s Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan and his Indian counterpart Piyush Goyal.
This initiative is part of the commitment India made during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit in 2019. All of the 10 broad-gauge locomotives that will be handed over to Bangladesh Railways were commissioned between September 2012 and December 2015.
The move will improve mobility solutions in Bangladesh for both intra-country and inter-country movement, the Indian Railways said in a statement.
Shariful Islam, Senior Information Officer of the Bangladeshi Railways Ministry said, “The broad gauge locomotives, which India is giving as a gift, would be handed over at 3:00 pm on July 27 through Darshana-Gede Interchange Point.”
Improving trade ties
On July 13 of this year, a parcel train carrying chillies from Andhra Pradesh reached Bangladesh. A month before that, over 100 freight trains operated between the two countries ferrying FMCG products, finished goods and essential products (such as rice, onions, garlic and maize).
Similarly, Tata Motors’ first parcel rake containing 51 ace trucks will reach Bangladesh on July 28. The consignment was loaded at Haldi Road railway station (Udham Singh Nagar district) for Petrapole-Benapole on July 25.
Trial runs for India-bound cargo through Chattogram (Chittagong) were concluded successfully last week. This, experts believe, will help in the development of northeastern states resulting in a win-win situation for both countries.
India will be able to enjoy seamless movement to its northeastern region and Bangladesh will benefit as their trucks and vessels will be used for transportation leading to increased revenue on account of tariffs.
While certain reports in Bangladeshi media have suggested that PM Sheikh Hasina has been avoiding the Indian envoy in recent weeks, sources say it is far from the truth. India Today has learnt that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has not been meeting anyone in the cabinet. All meetings have been put on hold after senior cabinet ministers and officials in Bangladesh tested positive for Covid-19.
Despite the pandemic, cooperation between India and China is stronger than ever in core areas relating to connectivity. “In this month particularly, several significant developments have taken place. It would not have been possible if relations were on a downward trajectory,” a source opined.