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Testing time for Indo-Bangla ties  

Published : Saturday, 3 June, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 559
Ajanta Acharya PhD

Testing time for Indo-Bangla ties  

Testing time for Indo-Bangla ties  

The fateful days of 1971 made the Bengalis know both their friends and their enemies. The inhuman torture of hyenas in West Pakistan left the Bengalis without shelter, clothing and food. The Pakistani invasion force was engaged in a killing game like a narcissist. On that day, India stood as a friend by the side of those homeless, clothed, hungry people. India provided food, clothing, shelter and protection to more than one crore refugees that day. India provided training and weapons to the freedom fighters that day. Not only that, the Indian army participated in the war on behalf of the Bengalis, ignoring all obstacles and all-round cooperation in the war. Because of which the Bengalis won in just nine months, and independent Bangladesh was built.

Bangabandhu's daughter Sheikh Hasina came to power after struggling against the evil forces for 21 years. After coming to power, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina started trying to restore the relationship between the two countries and extended the hand of friendship. One of the results of which was the historic Ganga water sharing agreement between Bangladesh and India in 1996. At that time significant progress was also made in the security of Bangladesh and India.

The Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Agreement in 1997 would have been impossible without India's support. During this period, the relationship between the two countries continued to advance through economic development and new communication. But that is not possible for long. The conspiracy started again. As a result, hostile relations between the two countries began to develop. This relationship is not just a relationship between two countries or peoples, but a relationship between two souls born from the same philosophy, history, culture and sacrifice.

This relationship stems from the difficult days of our liberation and freedom struggle. This relationship is based on mutual trust, understanding and respect. This relationship is a relationship that is built on the mixed blood of martyrs of two countries. This relationship is an eternal relationship, as Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman said in Kolkata in February 1972, 'India-Bangladesh friendship will remain forever. No force in the world can tear it apart.

The two Prime Ministers also inaugurated the 'Bapu-Bangabandhu Digital Exhibition' on Mahatma Gandhi and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. At that time, Indian Prime Minister Modi said, "Mahatma and Bangabandhu are the inspiration of our youth." International experts believe that the Indian government's respect for Bangabandhu will go a long way in India-Bangladesh relations.

Some notable examples of progress in India-Bangladesh relations:Transport of fuel from Assam to Tripura using Bangladesh route. On 4 September 2016, Indian Oil Corporation started transporting fuel from the northeastern state of Assam to Tripura by road through Bangladesh. IANS quoted an official in Agartala as saying that the move was taken due to problems in the transportation of petrol and diesel on traditional Indian mountain routes.

For this reason, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between the Roads and Public Ways Department of Bangladesh and the Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) in Dhaka on August 18 of the same year. According to the agreement, Indian fuel oil truck-lorries will travel to Tripura using Bangladesh roads till September 30. However, in this case, India will have to pay the prescribed fee for the cost of using and maintaining the road.

The Agartala official said, "If the passports of the IOCL officials and truckers are received by Tuesday, the transportation of petroleum products from Assam to Tripura via Bangladesh will start from September 7."
An official of IOCL told the news agency that the Indian tankers will depart from Bangaigaon in North Assam and enter Kailashpur in North Tripura via the Dauki border in Meghalaya-Tamabil in Sylhet-Chatlapur in Moulvibazar in about four hours. After supplying fuel to Tripura, the empty vehicles will return to India via Chatlapur check post in Bangladesh on the same route.

The official said that this new route through Bangladesh will save both cost and time in transporting energy, "It takes more than 10 hours to take these essential products to Tripura after crossing more than 400 kilometers of hilly roads. Moreover, the condition of the national highway through Meghalaya and South Assam is also very bad."

In 2016, the Assam-Tripura highway (NH-44) was damaged due to heavy rains and hilly landslides, disrupting the connectivity between Tripura and other parts of India. As a result, there is a severe shortage of fuel oil along with essential commodities in the state of Tripura.

At that time, a statement from the Indian High Commission in Dhaka said, Bangladesh has agreed to this cooperation at the request of the Indian government to transport fuel oil and LPG to Tripura using the road from Assam to Tripura for humanitarian reasons. Bangladesh has responded to this proposal considering the existing friendly relations between Bangladesh and India, Bangladesh's historical ties with the people of Tripura and above all the humanitarian situation.

Earlier, the government allowed the use of land in Bangladesh to transport food crops and heavy machinery from various parts of India to Tripura. Food Corporation of India (FCI) sent a new consignment of 2,350 tonnes of rice to Tripura from Kolkata via Bangladesh last week, avoiding the traditional friend of Assam and Meghalaya. Earlier, India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) was allowed to use the Bangladesh route to transport various types of equipment, including heavy machinery, required for the construction of the 726 MW 'Paltana Power Plant' in Tripura.

There is a narrow hilly terrain through Assam and West Bengal and the movement of vehicles especially cargo trucks is very difficult on that uphill and downhill route. By road, the distance from Assam to Calcutta via Guwahati is 1,650 miles, the distance from Delhi is 2,637 miles. But the distance between Agartala and Kolkata via Bangladesh is only 620 km.

Bangladesh to Tripura trial river route: Trial River route from Daudkandi in Bangladesh to Sonamura in Tripura started on September 4, 2020. On that day MV Premier ship carrying 50 metric tons of cement started its journey from Daudkandi. The MV Premier reached Tripura's Sonamura the next day after crossing a 93-km long route on the Gomti River. Through this, for the first time, the communication with Bangladesh through the river of Tripura started. This is one of the new initiatives undertaken under the North East Indian Countries Connectivity Program with Bangladesh. This move is aimed at improving bilateral relations between India and Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said in the event that these border huts are not only for sale, but border huts connect the soul. Communication with India should be increased for friendly relations. It will be possible to increase business and trade through discussions between the two sides.

Tripura Chief Minister Biplap Kumar Deb said that the relationship between Bangladesh and India was first of the heart, then culture and later it developed into a commercial relationship. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi loves the people of Tripura so much, that's why he gave whatever was asked for. Just like Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina likes Tripura people.

This is how 'Border Huts' were started at different borders of India-Bangladesh.

With this vision and goal in mind, Bangladesh and India must move forward with the same enthusiasm and commitment, long before they complete 100 years of their relationship so that they can reach the ranks of developed countries - the people of both countries sincerely hope for that. Long live Bangladesh-India friendship!

The writer is a senior researcher at South Asian Geopolitics  in Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune, India

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