India’s Active Involvement in the Development of Bangladesh’s Infrastructure, Economy, Energy, and Capacity Building Sectors

Bangladesh is considered an important country within India’s sphere of influence, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has significantly stepped up partnership with Bangladesh. An important avenue of partnership between the two countries is that of development cooperation.

India has been actively involved in the development of various regions in Bangladesh, including some of the more remote areas. India’s role has manifested itself in numerous ways, such as increased connectivity, economic and energy cooperation with Bangladesh. New Delhi has extended 4 Lines of Credits (LOC) to Dhaka in the last eight years amounting to around US$ 8 billion for development of infrastructure in various sectors including roads, railways, shipping and ports.

India’s Contribution towards Mega-Projects in Bangladesh:

Several mega-projects, inaugurated jointly by the Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh, aim to strengthen connectivity and energy security in the region. The Akhaura – Agartala Cross-Border Rail Link project, executed under the Government of India’s grant assistance of INR 392.52 crore, is a 12.24 km Dual Gauge rail line, with 6.78 km in Bangladesh and 5.46 km in Tripura. The Khulna – Mongla Port Rail Line was implemented under the Government of India’s concessional Line of Credit, this project involves the construction of approximately 65 kms of broad gauge rail route between Mongla Port and the existing rail network in Khulna. The 1320 MW (2×660) Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant in Rampal in Khulna Division of Bangladesh was implemented by the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (Private) Limited (BIFPCL), which is a 50:50 Joint Venture company between India’s NTPC Ltd and Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB).

India Operationalises Several Rail Links to Improve Connectivity with Bangladesh:

Five pre-1965 rail links have been rehabilitated between India and Bangladesh. Haldibari (India) – Chilahati (Bangladesh) rail link was the fifth renovated rail line which paved the way for greater sub-regional connectivity. The other four rail links made operational between India and Bangladesh include Petrapole (India)-Benapole (Bangladesh), Gede (India) – Darshana (Bangladesh), Singhabad (India) – Rohanpur (Bangladesh), and Radhikapur (India) – Birol (Bangladesh). There are currently three railway trains operating between the two countries – Maitri Express (since 2008, connecting Kolkata and Dhaka); Bandhan Express (since 2017, connecting Kolkata and Khulna); and Mitali Express (since June 2022, between New Jalpaiguri and Dhaka).

Development of Inland Waterways in Bangladesh:

India has been actively involved in the development of inland waterways in Bangladesh. One of the key initiatives is the Indo-Bangla Inland Waterways Connectivity Terminal, a new inland waterway terminal and a permanent jetty at the Indo-Bangla inland waterway protocol route between Sonamura and Daudkandi was inaugurated at Srimantapur in Tripura. This infrastructure is expected to strengthen trade and economic relations between India and Bangladesh

India’s National Waterways project aims to develop shipping routes along 111 waterways throughout the country. This includes the development of infrastructure such as river ports and improving the design of vessels that will use the transboundary waterways between Bangladesh and India.India and Bangladesh are undertaking dredging activities in Protocol of Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT) routes to maintain the Least Available Depth (LAD) of two-three metres and 45m wide channels. This is to promote transportation through inland waterways.These initiatives aim to boost trade, improve connectivity, and foster economic ties between the two countries.

India’s Role in Ensuring Energy Security For Bangladesh:

A new major development in bilateral ties between the two friendly Countries has come in the energy sector. The India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline (IBFP) was jointly inaugurated by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi of India and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh on 18 March 2023. The IBFP is a cross-border energy pipeline that connects Siliguri in West Bengal, India to Parbatipur in Dinajpur district of Bangladesh. This pipeline has a capacity to transport 1 Million Metric Ton Per Annum (MMTPA) of High-Speed Diesel (HSD) from India to Bangladesh.The project was implemented by the Numaligarh Refinery Limited of India and Meghna Petroleum Limited of Bangladesh. The operation of this pipeline puts in place a sustainable, reliable, cost-effective and environment-friendly mode of transporting HSD from India to Bangladesh. It will further enhance cooperation in energy security between the two countries. Bangladesh pays $11 in premium per barrel of fuel purchased from the international market, while the premium will be $5.5 per barrel in the pipeline project, thus saving around $6 per barrel in premium.The total cost of the project was estimated at INR 377 crore, with the Bangladesh portion of the pipeline built at a cost of approx. INR 285 crore. This cost was borne by the Government of India under grant assistance The HSD transmission will augment fossil energy-starved northern Bangladesh. The pipeline will ensure uninterrupted, fast and affordable means to 16 districts in the region, which needs nearly one million tonnes of fuel annually.

High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs)

HICDPs are an integral part of India’s developmental assistance to Bangladesh. These projects are designed to have a significant impact at the community level. India has funded 68 HICDPs in Bangladesh, which include the construction of academic buildings, cultural centres, skill development and training institutes, student hostels, and orphanages. An additional 16 HICDPs are currently being implemented. These projects aim to foster human resource development, which is a key component of India’s development cooperation efforts in Bangladesh. They not only contribute to the socio-economic development of the local communities but also strengthen the bonds of friendship between India and Bangladesh.

Many students from Bangladesh have pursued their education in India. According to a 2022 survey conducted by the All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE), Bangladesh ranks third in terms of the number of foreign students studying in India1. For instance, in the academic year 2019-20, 2,259 Bangladeshi students enrolled in Indian universities.

During the period from 2016 to 2021, 45,250 students from Bangladesh came to India for their studies. In 2021 alone, 47% of the total number of students who arrived in India were from Bangladesh. These students have pursued a variety of courses in globally recognized universities like IIT and availed scholarships like the ICCR

India has multi-pronged ties with Bangladesh, rooted in culture and history. The development assistance may seem marginal if regarded in absolute figures, yet it is effective within the wider framework of social, economic and political cooperation that India offers Bangladesh.  India is intent on playing a crucial role in Bangladesh from an economic point of view, building on its historical connections to capitalise on its own strategic and economic ventures in Bangladesh. In the spirit of mutual benefit as espoused under SSC, India’s development cooperation through capacity building and skills transfer, concessional finance (grants and LoCs), preferential trade, investment and technical cooperation will have a profound impact on the growth and development of Bangladesh.