Railway minister Piyush Goyal, EAM S Jaishankar virtually flag off 10 broad guage diesel locomotives to Bangladesh. PTI photo
In what is being seen as an assurance to India, Bangladesh on Monday termed bilateral ties as "rock solid", adding that in the past few years both countries "have scripted a golden chapter (‘sonali adhyaya’)" under the leadership of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The remarks by Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen was on the occasion of a Virtual ceremony that marked India’s handing over of 10 Broad Gauge (BG) locomotives to Dhaka to boost rail connectivity between the two nations, seen by both countries as a "vital element of bilateral cooperation in promoting trade and connectivity and in boosting the economic partnership".
It may be recalled that China has been trying to increase its economic influence in Bangladesh which New Delhi is only too aware of. This also comes at a time when Pakistan is trying to fish in troubled waters by reaching out to Bangladesh and raking up the Kashmir issue with it.
The Bangladesh Foreign Minister meanwhile also said bilateral ties with India were based on "shared principles, values and history touching almost every sphere of life including politics, culture, trade, security, water, energy and much more".
Terming Monday’s event as the "fulfilment of an important commitment made during the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India last October", New Delhi asserted that "the two countries need to work together to expedite many of the ongoing projects".
Echoing the warm sentiments, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said "very few countries in the world share such close fraternal ties as those of ours" and that "our partnership today stands out as a role model in the region for good neighbourly relations".
Praising the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, Mr. Jaishankar told his Bangladesh counterpart, "As your close friend and neighbour, we are indeed happy to witness the transformative growth. We have seen impressive growth rates in the last few years. And your achievements across all socio-economic indicators have set new benchmarks."
EAM Jaishankar also assured Bangladesh, saying, "India remains a committed development partner of Bangladesh. Our uniquely concessional lines of credit of close to US$ 10 billion is the largest India has extended to any country. These projects will help in the infrastructure development of Bangladesh, a pre-requisite for its economy to leapfrog to the next level. We need to work together to expedite many of the ongoing projects."
Incidentally, last Thursday had also "marked another historic achievement towards strengthening India Bangladesh maritime and economic partnership" in the "successful conclusion" of the "first time ever movement of container cargo from Kolkata to Agartala through the Chattogram Port".
In a statement on Monday, the Ministry of External Affairs said, "In a handing over ceremony held today, 10 Broad Gauge (BG) locomotives were virtually flagged off to Bangladesh by the External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar and the Minister of Railways and Commerce & Industry, Shri Piyush Goyal. ... From the Bangladesh end, Minister of Railway, Md. Nurul Islam Sujan and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Abul Kalam Abdul Momen received the locomotives on behalf of the Government of Bangladesh."
The MEA added, "In keeping with the requirements of Bangladesh Railway, the locomotives have been suitably modified by the Indian side. These locomotives will help handle the increasing volume of passenger and freight train operations in Bangladesh."
It may be recalled that in response to questions last week on media reports of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan raising the Kashmir issue in a phone conversation recently with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina but reportedly failing miserably in getting any support on the issue from her, New Delhi had last Thursday said it "appreciated" Bangladesh’s consistent position that the Kashmir issue was "internal" to India. New Delhi had also said its ties with Bangadesh are "time-tested".