NEW DELHI: After inaugurating a bridge connecting Tripura with Bangladesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said better connectivity is not only strengthening the friendship between the two countries but also proving to be a strong link for economic and trade ties.
In her remarks at an online event, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the 'Maitri Setu' built over the Feni river will be a "trading lifeline" for India's northeastern states and noted that political boundaries in the region should not become physical barriers for trade.
"Earlier the nearest sea port for Agartala was Kolkata which is over 1,600 km away. However, today, Agartala's nearest sea port is Chattogram and the distance to Bangladesh is less than 100 km. Undoubtedly this is a historic moment," she said.
The 1.9-km Maitri Setu has been built over the Feni river that flows between Indian boundary in Tripura and Bangladesh, and it connects Sabroom in India with Ramgarh in Bangladesh. Modi said the bridge will give an impetus to the economic opportunity in Bangladesh besides the northeastern region and thanked Dhaka for the cooperation in the completion of the project. "With the opening of the Feni bridge, Agartala will become the closest city in India to an international sea port," he said.
Modi said the connectivity is not only strengthening the friendship between India and Bangladesh but also proving to be a strong link of business. He said the entire region is being developed as a trade corridor between Northeast India and Bangladesh.
He emphasised that the rail and water connectivity projects that have been realised in the recent years have been strengthened by this bridge.
He added that this will improve connectivity of south Assam, Mizoram and Manipur along with Tripura with Bangladesh and South-East Asia. The inauguration of the bridge comes ahead of Modi's visit to Bangladesh.
"The bridge will be the trading lifeline for the Northeast (region) of India as you all know Bangladesh has already allowed the use of Chattogram and Mongla ports to and from India," Hasina said.
She also said that the opening of the bridge is a testimony to the Bangladesh government's continued commitment to support India in strengthening connectivity in the region, particularly for the northeast of India.
"We are creating a new era in South Asia through providing connectivity to India. We are in a region which has remained conservative in opening up, and where the regional trade is far below potential. I believe political boundaries should not become physical barriers to trade," she said.
Hasina also recalled India's role in Bangladesh's liberation war. "Fifty years ago, in 1971, India opened up its border for Bangladesh's people to support their freedom struggle. Today, we are building a prosperous region together," she said.
In his address, Modi said now people will not have to depend only on the road for any kind of supply to the Northeast. He said that efforts are underway to connect Chittagong port of Bangladesh with Northeast through an alternative route via the river.
Chittagong, which is officially known as Chattogram, is a key port city in Bangladesh. Modi said the integrated check post in Sabroom will work like a full-fledged logistic hub with warehouses and container trans-shipment facilities.