A Friend In Need Is A Friend Indeed – OpEd


The inauguration of the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline (IBFP) on Saturday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, has opened a new chapter of further strengthening economic cooperation between the two neighbours.

The Friendship Pipeline will carry diesel from the Siliguri marketing terminal of Numaligarh Refinery Ltd. in West Bengal to the Parbatipur depot of Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) inside that country. Constructed at a cost of Rs 3.46 billion, this 130-km pipeline, which has been jointly implemented by NRL of India and Meghna Petroleum Limited of Bangladesh, will enable India to export diesel to Bangladesh.

Fully funded by India following Prime Minister Modi’s meeting with the Bangladesh Prime Minister in 2017, the cross-border pipeline with a capacity of one million metric tonnes per annum (MMTPA), promises to solve the problem of transporting diesel to Bangladesh by the sea route. Bangladesh has been importing diesel from India through the railways since 2017, with about 2,200 tonnes of diesel being dispatched from the Numaligarh Refinery through the rail route every month.

While the cost of transportation was very expensive for Bangladesh Petroleum Company, the pipeline, once operational, will not only save on transportation costs but also help reduce air and sound pollution to a great extent.

Moreover, the Friendship Pipeline will also cut down the transportation cost of fuel oil for Bangladesh by about 50 percent. It is important to note that while following the Ukraine crisis, energy security has become an issue of major concern for the developing and least-developed countries, including Bangladesh, and this cross-border energy cooperation will go a long way in helping Bangladesh mitigate its energy crisis.

One must recall that India has been the most reliable neighbor for Bangladesh at times of crisis, and the very liberation and birth of Bangladesh were possible because of the active support and cooperation of India in 1971. Though there was a bad phase in between for the bilateral relationship between the two countries against the backdrop of certain political problems in Bangladesh, India has stood by its neighbour in a very significant manner when the entire world was in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The area of cooperation between Ladesh and India is gradually expanding. Another milestone progress in this regard was initiated last Saturday. On this day, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the ‘India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline’ through video conference. Immediately after the inauguration, diesel has started arriving from Numaligarh in Assam to Parbatipur depot in Dinajpur, Bangladesh. Through this pipeline, Bangladesh will be able to import about 1 million tons of oil annually from India. This will save the huge cost and time required to transport oil by road or rail. As a result, stable supply of diesel is expected to be ensured in the 16 districts of the northern part of Bangladesh. One example after another is being created as to how both countries can benefit through mutual cooperation.

The Russia-Ukraine war and Western sanctions against Russia have created a major oil crisis in the global market. Many countries are unable to procure the necessary fuel oil. Bangladesh has an annual demand of 70 to 72 million metric tons of fuel oil. Out of this, the demand for diesel alone is 48 to 49 lakh metric tons, of which the government has to import 80 percent from different countries. In the current context, it has become difficult to import this amount of fuel oil.

Moreover, huge amount of money has to be spent on transportation of imported oil. It takes too much time. In such a situation, the government was looking for ways to import diesel from new sources at low cost. Pipeline diesel imports from India will serve as that alternative source. Earlier fuel oil used to come from India mainly by rail. The amount of imported oil was 60 to 80 thousand tons per year, which did not play any significant role in our energy needs. Again, it would have required a lot of time and money to transport oil from Chittagong or Mongla to North Bengal by road or river. Now it will be very affordable.

Not only both countries, but also for sub-regional prosperity including Nepal, Bhutan, mutual cooperation is absolutely necessary. Bangladesh currently imports 1,160 MW of electricity from India. The process of importing electricity from Nepal and Bhutan through Indian territory is going on.

On the other hand, two landlocked countries are interested in using Bangladesh’s seaport over Indian territory. India is getting transit facility in Bangladesh. All the four countries belonging to the sub-regional alliance BBIN are expected to come under better connectivity in the near future. All countries will greatly benefit from this. There is no opportunity to walk alone or sit behind closed doors in the present age.

We expect many more instances like the Maitri pipeline to be established in the near future. Each pillar of connectivity will become progressively stronger. In order to increase sub-regional cooperation, the problems between the countries should be resolved quickly through discussions.

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