Power for bandwidth
Dhaka and New Delhi yesterday officially inaugurated the supply of 10GBps broadband internet from Bangladesh to India and 100MW power from India to Bangladesh, in yet another move towards stronger ties.
The launch was done through a video conference.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi termed it a significant day, and said relations between the two neighbours have reached a new height to promote each other's development.
"In this age of interdependence, the two countries would further strengthen their ties and it is a significant day that both are promoting the ways of development," said Modi, inaugurating the power connection from Tripura's Palatana to Bangladesh by a remote controller.
"The relations between the two countries have further consolidated through the supply of powers and internet," Hasina said, as she pressed a button providing the bandwidth from Cox's Bazar to Tripura's capital Agartala.
Hasina spoke from the Gono Bhaban and Modi from his office in New Delhi.
Bangladesh is already importing 500MW electricity from India since 2009. Construction of a sub-station for bringing another 500MW is underway. In addition, India and Bangladesh have entered a deal for commissioning of the 1,320MW Rampal power project near the Sundarbans.
Diplomatic sources in Dhaka and New Delhi said the launching of yesterday's power supply was a goodwill gesture from India and was a return for allowing for free the transport of cargo through Bangladesh during the construction of the Palatana power plant in 2011.
The deal for the internet bandwidth was inked in June last year during Modi's Bangladesh visit.
Bangladesh will pay Tk 6.51 per kilowatt-hour of electricity under a no-electricity no-pay agreement. At present, Dhaka is buying the 500MW powers from India's public and private sources at Tk 4.5 a unit on an average.
The average retail price of electricity in Bangladesh is Tk 6.33 a unit.
For the 10GBps internet bandwidth, Bangladesh will earn $1.2 million a year. In the next six months, the speed will increase fourfold, and so will the earnings, sources said.
Although the two premiers officially opened the internet connection yesterday, India started getting the bandwidth from February 8.
"Bangladesh would observe its National Day [Independence Day] on March 26 and I pay my respect to the memory of the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh. The era of good relations between the two countries began during the time of Bangabandhu which still continues," Modi said.
The eight northeastern states of India would be immensely benefited by the opening of the third International Internet gateway, he said, adding that Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan made considerable development in road links.
“Now, India and Bangladesh are connected via water, surface communications and air. We want to be connected with Bangladesh through space also," he said, adding that India sincerely wished to work with Bangladesh in launching the Bangabandhu Satellite, which the government plans to put in orbit in December next year.
"It's not only physical connectivity that we want to achieve, rather connectivity of all types -- virtual connectivity, connectivity of minds, knowledge, ideas and peoples," Hasina said.
"Today is yet another important and happy occasion in Bangladesh-India relations with the setting of another milestone. The import of electricity will assist us in fulfilling our energy demand.
“On the other hand, sharing of our bandwidth will enhance digital connectivity of Tripura and India's northeast [region] and facilitate their socioeconomic development and greater integration. So, this is a fine display of mutuality of our relationship," she said.
Hasina noted getting electricity from Tripura was the fulfilment of another political commitment.
"It has its genesis during my visit to Tripura in January 2012 … The chief minister of Tripura must be very happy today as we all are," she said and thanked Modi for making this happen.
Putting emphasis on joint initiatives by the countries of this region to build a "poverty-free society," Hasina said, “I believe that we could improve the living standard of the people of the two countries who are living under the poverty line through joint efforts.”
Modi extended greetings to Hasina and the people of Bangladesh on the occasion of the "Holi Utsav" -- a Hindu religious festival celebrated yesterday.
"The festival will colour the India-Bangladesh relations with new paint," he said.
For the most part, the two PMs spoke in their mother tongues. But Hasina turned to Hindi to greet the Indian people on the occasion of the Holi Utsav. Likewise, Modi spoke in Bangla while congratulating Hasina and the people of Bangladesh on the occasion of the 96th birth anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the upcoming Independence Day of Bangladesh.
"Bangabandhu's relationship with India remained intact and you always considered India as a partner during the bad time ... you also expressed gratitude to India and showed similar attitude today," he said.
Earlier, Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali spoke from the Gono Bhaban and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj from Modi's office. Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar joined the talks from Agartala.
Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Harsh Vardhan Shringla and senior officials of the ministries concerned were present at the Gano Bhaban, among others.