Akhaura-Agartala Railway May Usher New Trade Potentials Between Bangladesh And Northeast India – OpEd


Project stakeholders are making preparations to inaugurate the Akhaura-Agartala railway this week. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are scheduled to inaugurate virtually on September 9 a 6.78 km Bangladesh section of the Akhaura-Agartala dual gauge railway, of the total length of 12.24 km. Railway lines have been installed in the entire section. However, the work on the Customs and Immigration building and the station platform is yet to be completed.There is a great deal of excitement about this initiative in both nations. It is anticipated that this networking endeavor would fundamentally alter both Bangladesh and India. 

Chittagong and Mongla ports in Bangladesh may be used to carry goods from other sea ports in India to other states in the North-Eastern area via Agartala. As a consequence, trade will grow in these nations, and it will be easier and quicker to carry products while also cutting the cost of doing so. 

One of the most well-known connecting projects between India and Bangladesh is the Agartala-Akhaura international railway. Before Independence, Akhaura served as Agartala’s rail connection. The railway between Akhaura and Agartala is now beginning to prosper. A loan from India is being used to carry out the project. According to project authorities, more than 90% of the work on the Akhaura-Agartala project has been finished. The railway line has been completely laid.

The 15.064 km railway line, which spans 5.05 km of India and 10.014 km of Bangladesh, would connect Bangladesh’s Akhaura to the fringes of Agartala by means of Nischintapur’s international immigration station. Nishchintapur station is a dual gauge station for the exchange of passengers and goods between India and Bangladesh.For the interchange of both passengers and products between India and Bangladesh, this station will have dual gauge. If the cost of import is reduced, the product can be delivered at a lower price to the consumer. As a result, this railway will play an important role in the commercial sector Three minor and one large bridges are also part of the project.

While visiting India in January 2010, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina signed the Memorandum of Understanding. The project, which began in 2016, will then be extended for a fourth time, this time until June 2024. To put it another way, this project, which has been in the works for 13 years, is now being completed. Due to difficulties with land acquisition and the Covid-19 epidemic, the project was intended to be finished in 2020 but was postponed.  An international immigration station would be located in Nischintapur at the India-Bangladesh border on the 15-kilometer-long railway line connecting Bangladesh’s Akhaura.Once in service, the railway will cut the time it takes to travel from Agartala to Kolkata from 31 hours to 10 hours, opening up a wealth of prospects for business, travel, and cross-cultural interaction. 

For this project, the Indian Railway Ministry allotted Rs 153.84 crore. The project is being funded by the Ministry of DONER (Development of North Eastern Region), and Rs 708.74 crore of the anticipated cost have already been supplied and used.This railroad connection is one of the 16 recognized transit routes that permit the shipment of merchandise from the ports of Chattogram or Mongla to Indian states.

Two Indian states, Tripura and West Bengal, would be conveniently connected to Bangladesh if this railway link is completed.The distance between the two Indian cities of Kolkata and Agartala would be shorter thanks to this new railway connection. 500 kilometers between Agartala and Kolkata would be covered by the railway through Dhaka in around 16 hours. After the project is finished, it will take only 10 hours to travel from Agartala to Kolkata through Dhaka instead of the present 31 hours. The general growth of the North Eastern area would be greatly aided by the 15-km railway link that connects Agartala and Gangasagar. The 150-kilometer-distance Mizoram residents as well as those from Agartala will profit from the existing line. If the project is implemented, Bangladesh’s trade with Seven Sisters of India will expand and export-dependent small industries will expand. Moreover, the project will play a role in establishing a new rail link between Kolkata and Agartala in India via Akhaura. 

In addition, a contract between India and Bangladesh permits Indian businesspeople to ship products through the ports of Chattogram and Mongla in Bangladesh. This railway will improve commerce and contribute to the economic growth of both countries and states. It will not only facilitate more travel between the two nations’ populations, but it will also be crucial for the import and export of products from Chittagong port. Additionally, this rail route would benefit both nations’ tourism industries. The new train project will improve ties between India and Bangladesh, support the development of small-scale companies along the border, and increase tourism in the region’s northeast. Improving the speed of commodity export and import would help regional manufacturers sell their goods abroad.

Safowan Hossain Khan

Safowan Hossain Khan is a researcher specializing in South Asian Affairs with a particular focus on the India-Bangladesh relations. He is a Senior Research Fellow of University of London.

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