Bangladesh, India inaugurate oil pipeline, railway projects

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday jointly e-inaugurated the construction work of a cross-border oil pipeline and a railway project, with the former describing the two countries as members of the same family.

Hasina and Modi joined the event in the evening via video-conferencing from Dhaka and New Delhi, respectively.

The 129 km India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline connecting Siliguri in India with Parbatipur in Bangladesh will transport petroleum products from Numaligarh Refinery in Assam. Of the total length, 124 km will be constructed in Bangladesh and 5 km in India.

“Geographically we may be neighbours, but emotionally we are members of the same family,” Modi said while addressing the programme.

“Our mutual cooperation in the last few years has shown the world that when two neighbouring countries strive to work together, what all can be achieved,” he said.

“Whether it be a decades-old border problem or development aid cooperation project, we have made unprecedented progress on all issues.”

At the same event, the ground-breaking ceremony of a rail project to improve Dhaka’s connectivity with Tongi and Joydebpur, two towns on the outskirts of the capital city, was also held.

Officials said 48.80 km of the two new dual gauge rail lines would be constructed on the Dhaka-Tongi route and a 12.28 km new dual gauge railway double line on the Tongi-Joydebpur route.

Tuesday’s inauguration of the two projects came a little over a week after both the Prime Ministers inaugurated two railway projects and an electricity project on September 10.

Stating that the pipeline will further boost bilateral cooperation, Modi said that energy was the cornerstone of any country’s development.

“The pipeline will help in the development of the northern Bangladesh. Though it is being done with grant-financing from India, the project will be dedicated to the people and government of Bangladesh once completed,” he said.

Modi said the railway project will not only bring relief to road traffic in Dhaka, but also boost freight revenues.

Speaking from Dhaka, Hasina said that ever since she formed her government in Bangladesh in 2009, she has been working relentlessly to deepen ties with India.

She thanked Modi for the new projects which she said will help in Bangladesh’s development.

Potenial of nuclear

India has been seeking to increase the nuclear energy component of its power matrix with 25 per cent share coming from nuclear energy by 2050. India is also exploring the nuclear export markets and with the seat at Nuclear Suppliers’ Group still in process, the India-Russia-Bangladesh tripartite agreement has been a sort of game-changer for India. And with this the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Bangladesh became India’s first nuclear power venture on foreign soil.

“Certainly the Indian private companies would get hands-on experience by being involved in the development of nuclear industry in the neighbourhood. This would, first, strengthen India’s credentials for NSG membership; and second, generate goodwill for India from neighbours. India cannot and should not ignore the nuclear energy projects in its neighbourhood when it has so much to offer and get benefitted in return,” said Dr. Sitakanta Mishra. He teaches at the Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University (PDPU), Gujarat.

Russia has an advantage over other players as the nuclear-technology provider is state-owned unlike the US, where the nuclear agreements may have to go through “bureaucratic hurdles, hearings, testimonies, recommendations etc.” “The Roopur nuclear power plant project provides a rare opportunity for both India and Russia to take their time-tested nuclear energy cooperation to a greater height,” Prof. Mishra added. Both the countries are also exploring a similar working model in Sri Lanka as well.

The trilateral agreement was signed by India, Russia and Bangladesh in March 2018. The document establishes the basis for the interaction of the Russian contractor Atomstroyexport JSC with Indian and Bangladeshi specialists in the implementation of the project. In particular, the parties plan to cooperate in personnel training, experience sharing and consulting support. Under the agreement, Indian companies will participate in construction and installation work, supply of non-critical materials and equipment for the project.