Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

India Bangladesh Relations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Railway links mentioned

Mains level: India-Bangladesh connectivity

Two years after they were stopped due to the onset of the pandemic, passenger train services between India and Bangladesh resumed with the Bandhan Express setting off from Kolkata for Khulna and the Maitree Express starting its run from Dhaka for Kolkata.

History of Rail Connectivity

  • The Bandhan Express was resumed by rebooting a long-forgotten rail link between Kolkata and the industrial hub of Khulna, the third-largest city of Bangladesh.
  • In 1965, this route was served by the Barisal Express, which was stopped due to the India-Pakistan war.
  • The Modi government along with the Sheikh Hasina regime restarted that with Bandhan in 2017.
  • The Bandhan Express was the second train to be flagged off after the introduction of Maitree Express between Kolkata and Dhaka Cantonment in April, 2008.
  • It covers the distance between Kolkata and Khulna via Petrapole and Benapole border route to cater to the demands of the people from both the countries.
  • The Bandhan Express was resumed in 2017 by rebooting a long-forgotten rail link between Kolkata and the industrial hub of Khulna.

Beyond passenger travel

  • The governments of both the countries have been working towards strengthening the rail link between them, and not just through passenger trains.
  • In August 2021, the two sides started regular movement of freight trains between the newly-restored link between Haldibari in India and Chilahati in Bangladesh.
  • The Haldibari-Chilahati rail link between India and the then East Pakistan was also operational till 1965 and stopped due to the war.
  • This was part of the broad gauge main route from Kolkata to Siliguri at the time of Partition.
  • The two sides envisage at least 20 freight trains to cross the border per month on this link.

Rail infrastructure

  • Once part of a single, seamless railway network under British rule, trains continued to pass between the two countries even after the Partition.
  • The infrastructure to connect the two sides through railways was, therefore, largely present.
  • Policymakers on both sides viewed this as an opportunity to deepen diplomatic ties using cross-border movements of goods and passengers.
  • Five rail links have so far been rebooted between India and Bangladesh:

Petrapole (India)-Benapole (Bangladesh), Gede (India)- Darshana (Bangladesh), Singhabad (India)-Rohanpur (Bangladesh), Radhikapur (India)-Birol (Bangladesh) and the Haldibari-Chilahati link


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