- PM Modi and Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina jointly inaugurated the Haldibari-Chilahati rail link making the connectivity between the two countries easier
- The rail link has been made functional from December 17 and is the 5th rail link between India and Bangladesh
- After a gap of 55 years, the Haldibari-Chilahati rail link finally opened and is expected to boost people-to-people contact and tourism between the two nations
After the India-Pakistan War of 1965, the non-functional rail link of Haldibari and Chilahati has been reopened and inaugurated on Thursday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, bringing the number of functional rail links between the two countries to five.
With this new link coming into operation, Bangladeshi tourists will be able to easily visit places such as Darjeeling, Sikkim, Dooars, as well as countries such as Nepal and Bhutan.
This new rail link would also support the economic activities of these South Asian countries, the railways said.
During a Prime Minister-level virtual bilateral summit, PM Modi and Ms Hasina jointly inaugurated the railway link between Haldibari in India and Chilahati in Bangladesh.
Later, the Railway Minister of Bangladesh, Mohammad Nurul Islam Sujan, flagged off a goods train from Chilahati station, which entered India via international border, heralding a new era for the people living in both countries.
India and Bangladesh’s railway networks are largely inherited from the Indian Railways of British time. Seven rail ties were in service between India and then East Pakistan following the partition in 1947 (up to 1965).
“Four operational rail links between India and Bangladesh are currently in existence. They are Singhabad (India)-Rohanpur (Bangladesh), Radhikapur (India)-Birol (Bangladesh), Gede (India)-Darshana (Bangladesh), Petrapole (India)-Benapole (Bangladesh).”
The 5th rail link between India and Bangladesh is the Haldibari-Chilahati rail link that has been made operational from December 17.
Until 1965, the Haldibari-Chilahati rail link was operational. This was part of the main broad-gauge route during the partition from Kolkata to Siliguri. Even after the partition had taken place the trains which were traveling to Assam and north Bengal continued to travel through the then-East Pakistan territory. For instance, one train from Sealdah to Siliguri used to enter East Pakistan territory through Darshana and exit using the Haldiba.
The 1965 war, however, effectively cut off all railway ties between India and East Pakistan at the time. Thus, the partition of the railways took place in the eastern sector of India in 1965. So, it is easy to imagine the significance of reopening this rail connection,’ a statement from the railway ministry said.
Back in 2015, May, after a joint declaration at the Inter-Governmental Railway Meeting (IGRM) which took place in Delhi, the Railway Board approved the construction in 2016-17 of a new 3.5 km broad-gauge line from Haldibari station to the Bangladesh border connecting Chilahati in order to reopen the former rail connection.
Although the Indian Railways restored the tracks from the Haldibari station to the international border at a cost of around ₹ 82.72 crores, the Bangladesh Railways also undertook the upgrading and laying down of missing tracks from the Chilahati station to the international border.
On the Bangladeshi side, there is already a broad-gauge of the current Chilahati-Parbatipur-Santahar-Darshana line.
The Haldibari-Chilahati route from Assam and West Bengal will be beneficial for transit to Bangladesh. This newly opened rail link will boost the connectivity of the rail network to the main ports, dry ports and land borders to help regional trade growth and promote the region’s economic and social development. Once passenger trains are planned in this route both countries’ common people and businesses will be able to reap the benefits of both goods and passenger traffic, the ministry said.