India-Bangladesh to reopen Chilahati-Haldibari rail link after 1965.

India and Bangladesh are going to reopen the Chilahati-Haldibari rail link after it was cut off during the 1965 war, nearly 55 years ago.


The inauguration of the rail link will take place during the Virtual Summit of the Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh on Thursday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to visit Bangladesh in March this year but due to the sudden onset of Covid-19, the visit had to be postponed. Thursday’s Virtual Summit between PM Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina comes a day after both the nations celebrate victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

For years, India and Bangladesh have continued to maintain regular exchanges at the highest level. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid an official visit to India in October 2019. PM Modi delivered a video message on the historic occasion of Mujib Borsho in March 2020. Both leaders have remained in regular touch during the pandemic.

With an aim to enhance transport and connectivity between the two nations, the leadership on both sides has been committed to reviving and operationalizing the six pre-1965 rail links between the two countries. The Haldibari-Chilahati rail link was part of the Broad Gauge main route from Kolkata to Siliguri.

However, the war of 1965 effectively cut off all the railway links between the two countries. To revive the ease of access on both sides, the rail links are being restored, enhancing connectivity and people-to-people ties on both sides.

With the inauguration of the Haldibari-Chilahati rail link, five out of six rail links are currently operational. The other four operational rail links between India and Bangladesh connecting West Bengal with Bangladesh are Petrapole (India) - Benapole (Bangladesh), Gede (India) – Darshana (Bangladesh), Singhabad (India)-Rohanpur (Bangladesh)and Radhikapur (India)–Birol (Bangladesh).

Haldibari-Chilahati route will enhance connectivity to Assam and West Bengal from Bangladesh. This link will enhance rail network accessibility and give a boost to bilateral trade and economic development of the region. Currently, the rail link will facilitate the movement of goods cargo. Passenger movement will also commence as soon as the necessary infrastructure on both sides is in place.

Earlier in July this year, India had handed over 10 Broad Gauge locomotives to Bangladesh in a virtual ceremony in presence of External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal. From the Bangladesh end, Minister of Railway Md. Nurul Islam Sujan and Minister of Foreign Affairs Abul Kalam Abdul Momen received the locomotives.

India and Bangladesh have also stepped up their rail cooperation in mitigating the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic, as trade via land border has been facing disruptions. Rail as a cost-effective and environmental-friendly solution has helped in transporting essential commodities across the border.

In July this year, parcel and container train services also commenced between India and Bangladesh. The train with 50 containers started from Majerhat station near Kolkata and reached its destination in Bangladesh with a consignment of soaps, shampoos, and other FMCG items along with textile fabric. With the opening up of these railway links and a variety of services, and goods, and people crossing over to the other side, there is a greater likelihood of enhanced bilateral ties between the two neighbours.

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