DHAKA: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said Bangladesh plans to import 9,000 MW power by 2041 from neighbouring countries, expecting New Delhi to stay beside this endeavour in a video conference with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.
“We plan to import 9,000 MW of electricity from our neighbours by 2041 under a regional cooperation framework and I hope that India will be by our side in this endeavour,” she said jointly inaugurating with Modi three projects in power and railway sectors.
Sheikh Hasina added that steps have been taken to immediately import 3,000
MW more from India as Bangladesh currently imports 660 MW from there.
The Indian prime minister, on the other hand, said with the opening of three projects a golden chapter has been opened up and “from today we became closer and our relationship has been deepened further”.
The aim of the conference is that any inauguration of coopeartion projects is not delayed for the VVIP visit,” he said adding that it was his fourth videoconference with the Bangladesh premier among many meetings and another videoconference was supposed to be held soon.
The Indian premier noted that it was very much needed to maintain neigbourly relations with leaders of neighbouring countries.
The Bangladesh premier was at her Ganobhaban official residence during the conference and Modi was at his office in New Delhi while chief ministers of West Bengal and Tripura Mamata Banerjee and Biplab Kumar Deb joined the conference from their respective state capitals.
Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali spoke on the occasion.
Two of the projects opened through the conference today were on railway sector while the rest involved the power sector cooperation under which India would export 500 MW additional power through Behrampore-Bheramara interconnection.
The event marked the groundbreaking of Agartala-Akhaura railway link and groundbreaking for rehabilitation of Kulaura-Shahbazpur section of Bangladesh Railways.
The two prime ministers along with the West Bengal and Tripura chief ministers opened the three projects by unveiling the e-plaques.
Law Minister Anisul Haque, Railways Minister Md Mazibul Haque, PM’s Political Affairs Adviser HT Imam, International Affairs Adviser Dr Gowher Rizvi, and Energy Adviser Dr Towfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury were present on Bangladesh side during the conference.
State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid Bipu, PM’s Principal Secretary Md Nojibur Rahman, Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque and Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Harsh Vardhan Shringla were also present at Ganabhaban, among others.
The Bangladesh prime minister thanked Narendra Modi for supporting Bangladesh in its development pursuit particularly in energy and power sector which she said appeared as a crucial element of bilateral cooperation.
Taking part in the talks during the video conference Banerjee said West Bengal was ready to export 1000 MW power to Bangladesh if Indian government agrees while Sheikh Hasina said she expected the Indian premier to give his consent in this regard.
Sheikh Hasina said her government was building additional 55 power plants with 13,690 MW power generation capacities but “we need more energy to sustain our high economic growth”.
She pointed out that Bangladesh’s power generation capacity now exceeded 20,000 MW while it was 3,200 MW nine and a half years ago.
The Indian premier said with the completion of the project now 1.16 gigawatt of electricity was being supplied to Bangladesh from India and “this quantum jump of reaching gigawatt from megawatt is a symbol of opening golden chapter between the two countries”.
In the recent years, Sheikh Hasina said, the two nations witnessed remarkable progress on cooperation in a host of areas, including trade and commerce, power and energy, connectivity, infrastructure development and people-to-people contact.
“We have maintained our good ties and also ventured into new areas such as blue economy and maritime cooperation, nuclear energy, cyber security, space research and so on,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the two countries experienced enhanced cooperation in railway sector as well “and are now working to re-open pre-1965 railway links for cargo transport between Bangladesh and India”.
Modi, on the other hand, appreciated her initiatives for reestablishing pre-1965 connectivity and said “it’s a matter of comfort for me that we have been taking steps one after another”.
The Bangladesh premier expected the two countries to jointly inaugurate soon the groundbreaking ceremonies for construction of the 3rd and 4th dual gauge rail track between Dhaka and Tongi, and doubling of the dual gauge tracks between Tongi and Joydevpur” with Indian line of credit (LOC).
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh-India relationship became a role model for rest of the world as it enabled the two nations to walk through the path of mutual prosperity with firm confidence.
“Mutual trust, respect and goodwill have made our relations matured over the years,” she said also recalling with profound respect the crucial Indian contribution during Bangladesh’s 1971 Liberation War led by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The Bangladesh premier said in recent years land boundary problem was solved with unanimous supports of India’s all parliament members proving that “all people (India) irrespective of party and opinion remain united on any issue of Bangladesh”.
“We’ve (however) some other problems . . . But I am sure that we will have many more similar, happy occasions in the days ahead to jointly celebrate success stories of our collective endeavours,” she added.
Modi, on the other hand, said “I believe that the way we strengthen our relations and cordiality of the people of the two countries, in that way we will be open up a new horizon of prosperity”.
The groundbreaking of the two rail projects – one on Akhaura-Agartala rail route and another on Kulaura-Shahbajpur section of Bangladesh railway — is a testimony of cooperation, Modi said.
The Indian premier highly appreciated Bangladesh premier’s proposal for resumption of the pre-1965 rail routes between the two neighbours and added India wanted to be a “proud partner” on implementing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Vision 2021 and Vision 2041.
Modi said Bangladesh’s internal connectivity and creating link with India is a real example of cooperation and if the work on Akhaura-Agartala rail connectivity was completed, “another link will be established in the cross-border connectivity”.
“I thank Tripura CM for his assistance to this project,” he said.
Later the Bangladesh premier exchanged views with the cross section of people of Akhaura, Bheramara and Kulaura.
Officials familiar with the power sector project said of the 500 MW power to be imported, 300 MW would come from India’s state-run National Thermal Power Plant and 200 MW from private Power Trading Corporation of India.
They said with the addition of the 500 MW of electricity, the quantum of India’s power would stand at 1160 MW or 1.16 gigawatt.
Currently, Bangladesh imports 660 MW electricity from India, of which 500 MW were added to the national grid in Bheramara of Kushtia from Baharampur of India’s West Bengal state, while 160 MW were added to the national grid in Cumilla from India’s Tripura.
The Indian prime minister during his 2015 Bangladesh visit pledged to provide 500 MW of electricity to Bangladesh while he said today “for this transmission link from West Bengal is being used and I thank the West Bengal CM for her support”.
Railway officials, on the other hand, said the rehabilitation of 53 kilometre long Kulaura-Shahbazpur section would be completed at a cost of Tk 678 crore 51 lakh. Of the total amount, Taka 555 crore 99 lakh would be provided by India under its Line of Credit (LoC).
The total mainline will be 44.77 km, while the 7.77 kilometre long loop line will be renovated. The project incorporated the construction of a bridge, passenger platform, platform shed, Customs and Immigration facility, and other infrastructures.
Some 477 crore 82 lakh taka would be spent for implementation of the project and of the amount, The India would provide taka 420 crore 76 lakh, while Bangladesh government would give 57 crore five lakh taka.
The Bangladesh part of Akhaura-Agartala rail line and the rehabilitation of Kulaura-Shahbazpur section would be implemented under India’s one billion dollar LoC.
After commissioning of the railway lines, the officials said, Bangladesh-India rail connectivity would be strengthened and it will also boost economic cooperation between the two neighbours.
During the talks the West Bengal CM said she hoped that the Bangladesh-India ties would be consolidated further in the days to come while Sheikh Hasina invited her to visit Bangladesh.
“I will visit Bangladesh if you win the next election,” Banerjee said and expressed her hope that the Bangladesh-India ties would be consolidated further in the days to come.