Bangladesh-India Road Connectivity: One step forward
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said political boundaries should not become physical barriers to trade in this region.
"We're in a region which has remained conservative in opening up and where inter-regional trade is far below its potential. I believe political boundaries shouldn't become physical trade barriers," the prime minister said, reports UNB.
The PM made the remark as she along with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi inaugurated the "Maitri Setu" (Friendship Bridge) over the Feni river in a virtual ceremony yesterday.
The 1.9-kilometre bridge connected Sabroom -- a town in the Indian state of Tripura -- with Ramgarh of Bangladesh.
The Indian PM, while inaugurating the Friendship Bridge, said connectivity is not only strengthening the friendship between India and Bangladesh but also proving to be a strong business link. The entire region is being developed as a trade corridor between Northeast India and Bangladesh, he said, reports our New Delhi correspondent.
Modi said the bridge will improve connectivity of south Assam, Mizoram, Manipur and Tripura with Bangladesh and Southeast Asia.
Attending the event virtually, Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh expects the bridge to help the country conduct trade more smoothly with Nepal and Bhutan alongside India.
"We're creating a new era in South Asia, providing connectivity to India. I think the Maitri Setu will further connect the two nations and play a significant role in business, trade and economic development.
"The event is taking place at a time when we are celebrating the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence, and 50th year of Bangladesh-India diplomatic relations," she added.
The prime minister also expected the Maitri Setu to significantly improve the socioeconomic condition of the people of Tripura and the surrounding north-eastern states of India. She hoped it will also contribute towards improving the livelihoods of those living on the Bangladeshi side of the bridge.
She said Bangladesh's growth trajectory and its geographic location make it an extremely attractive South Asian neighbour.
As one of the global leaders in textile production, Bangladesh carved its distinct path and has become a favoured destination for foreign investment, she added.
Hasina said Bangladesh is ready to maximise its locational advantage as a connectivity hub between South and Southeast Asia.
"We believe the cross-border transport systems that Bangladesh is developing with India is an important step in this regard and will enable us to play an important role in regional trade and commerce," she said.
The Feni bridge is a testimony to the Bangladesh government's continued commitment to support India in strengthening connectivity in the region, particularly for the northeast of India, said Hasina.
She recalled that India opened up its border in 1971 for Bangladesh's people to support their struggle for freedom.
"Today, we're building a prosperous region together. I wish [for] successful operation and utilisation of the Feni Maitri Setu."
Modi thanked the Bangladesh government and Hasina for the cooperation in the completion of the bridge project.
Due to the bridge over the Feni, Tripura state's capital Agartala will become the city nearest to an international sea port in India, said Modi.
It is poised to herald a new chapter for trade and people-to-people movement between India and Bangladesh, our New Delhi correspondent reports, quoting a statement of Indian Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
With this inauguration, Tripura has now become the "Gateway of North East" with access to the Chattogram port of Bangladesh, which is just 80 kilometres from Sabroom, it said.
Modi also inaugurated and laid the foundation stone of multiple infrastructure projects in Tripura during the event, via video conferencing, reports India TV news.
The Indian National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd started the project at a cost of Rs 133 crore, said the PMO statement.
Modi also laid the foundation stone for setting up an Integrated Check Post at Sabroom, which will help ease the movement of goods and passengers between the two countries, provide new market opportunities for products of north-eastern states and assist seamless movement of passengers to and from India and Bangladesh, the Indian PMO said.
The project is being taken up by the Land Ports Authority of India at an estimated cost of about Rs 232 crore, the statement said.