Dhaka, Nov 9 (UNB) - Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday said Bangladesh wants to cooperate with India and other neighbouring countries for creating a ‘peace area’ in South Asia where all can live together as good neighbours and pursue constructive policies for the benefit of all.
"We’re ready to cooperate with India and other countries in the immediate neighbourhood for creating a ‘peace area’ in South Asia where we can live together," she said.
In this regard, the Prime Minister mentioned the vision of Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who conceived the idea of regional cooperation in 1972. “This remains our constant guide. I'm sure these connectivity initiatives will further consolidate this vision."
Sheikh Hasina said this while jointly inaugurating the end-to-end Immigration and Customs of Maitree Express, flagging off Bandhan Express (Khulna-Kolkata) and launching of train communication on newly-built 2nd Bhairab and 2nd Titas Railway Bridges with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee through a videoconference from Prime Minister's official residence Ganobhaban.
Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also joined the videoconference.
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, PM's Economic Affairs Adviser Dr Moshiur Rahman, PM's Political Affairs Adviser HT Imam, State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam, Indian High Commissioner to Dhaka Harsh Vardhan Shringla, and secretaries concerned were present at Ganobhaban.
As friendly nations, Hasina said, there has been an excellent relationship between the two countries and continuation of such relationship is very much essential.
With the inaugurations of these services, she said, a new door of relationship has been opened up between the two countries, and this will further strengthened in the future.
Hasina said not only in rail, it is also the expectation of her government to create bond among the people of the two countries and thus unleash socio-economic development of the two nations.
She said Bangladesh-India relations are in fact setting new high standards of bilateral cooperation in the region and beyond. "I'm sure we would be having many more similar, happy occasions in the days ahead for the greater benefit of our peoples. I look forward to working with your Excellency in our joint endeavour to that end."
She said today is yet another happy occasion in Bangladesh-India relations. "On this important day, I’m extremely happy to join your Excellency to formally launch the end-to-end immigration and customs of Dhaka-Kolkata Maitree Express and flagging off Khulna-Kolkata Bandhan Express service."
The Prime Minister said this is the fulfillment of a long cherished dream as these initiatives along with a new International Passenger Terminal at Chitpur, Kolkata will facilitate comfortable journey between Dhaka-Kolkata and Khulna-Kolkata.
She also wished all the success of the Maitree Express and Bandhan Express services.
"I'm also confident that these services would give a boost to cultural exchanges and tourism between our two peoples. I hope this fine display of mutuality of our relationship will further strengthen our bilateral relations," she added.
The Prime Minister said the two countries are having wonderful cooperation in railways sector. "Since 2009, it has been strengthened further. Our two countries are also working to re-open our pre-1965 rail links for cargo transport between Bangladesh and India."
She went on saying, "I understand some of these are already functioning and the necessary works for the rest are in progress. I thank the government of India for supporting the railways projects through Line of Credit (LOC) funds."
Hasina said she was also happy that two railway bridges at Bhairab and Titas are also being inaugurated today which will contribute to faster connectivity between Dhaka and Chittagong.
Mentioning that connectivity is one of the main pillars of our cooperation, she said, "Our two countries are not only connected through rail, road, inland water and air, but we are connected through internet bandwidth, coastal routes, power grid etc."
She said these new modes of connectivity are adding diverse dimensions to our overall connectivity architecture. "I'm happy to note that we’ve recently extended our connectivity to space."
Sheikh Hasina also extended a belated happy Diwali to Modijee, Sushamajee, Momtajee and the people of India.
The Prime Minister also invited Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Benerjee to visit Bangladesh.
Later, exchanging views with Railways Minister Mazibul Hoque and cross-section of people at Bhairab end, Hasina said the 2nd Bhairab Bridge will be named after late President Zillur Rahman.
Taking a swipe at the BNP-Jamaat government for plotting to destroy the rail sector, Hasina said: "I then opposed the move and after assuming office, my government created a separate Ministry for the Railways."
She also opined that not only rail, but also roadways, waterways, and airways would be required for the country for unleashing overall development.
Bangladesh Railway officials said the two new bridges were built on the Bhairab and Titas rivers as a second track was constructed for simultaneous operation of up and down train services from Dhaka to Chittagong and Sylhet.
The train to operate on the 177 kilometres Khulna-Kolkata route would be dubbed as ‘Bandhan Express’ while the service was being launched to ease further communication between the two neighbouring countries.
The train on the route, however, would start ferrying passengers from November 16 and according to the schedule, it would leave Kolkata at 11 am (Indian time) and reach Khulna within only four and a half hours.
The two railway bridges were constructed with the Indian Line of Credit (LoC).
The 982.20-meter long and seven-metre width Bhairab Railway Bridge was built at a cost of Tk 567 crore, while its construction work began on December 25 in 2013 and ended last month.
Under an agreement with Bangladesh government, India's Ircon-Afcons JV constructed the bridge having both dual gauge and broad-gauge facilities.
The new Titas Bridge is 218.70-metre in length and 7-meter in width while it was built at a cost of Tk 161.36 crore by another Indian company called Gannon-Flcl Consortium under a nearly identical agreement with the government.
The construction work of the second Titas Bridge started on January 27 in 2014 and ended last month.
The up train from Dhaka would move through one bridge, while the down one would use the other while the trains connecting Dhaka with the major two cities could ply without any crossing at Bhairab and Akhaura stations.
The bridges will reduce travel time between Dhaka and Chittagong and Dhaka and Sylhet and we will be able to run the dual gauge and broad gauge trains at 100-km and 120-km speed respectively.