India and Bangladesh sealed seven agreements to expand cooperation in diverse areas including energy, development projects and agriculture, at a virtual summit on Thursday, and restored a cross-border rail link that had not been operational since 1965.
The railway line from Haldibari in Cooch Behar to Chilahati in northern Bangladesh had been defunct after rail links between India and the then East Pakistan were snapped in 1965.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina also jointly inaugurated a digital exhibition on Mahatma Gandhi and Bangladesh's founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. At the summit, Hasina expressed gratitude to the Indian Army for liberating the country from Pakistani forces in 1971. “I pay deep homage to the three million martyrs who laid down their lives. I pay tribute to the members of the Indian armed forces martyred in the war and to their families. I pay my gratitude to the government and the people of India who extended their wholehearted support for the cause of our nation,” she said. “India is our true friend,” the Bangladesh PM emphasised. In his remarks, Modi said Bangladesh was a "key pillar" of India's "Neighbourhood First" policy.
"We feel proud to celebrate "Bijoy Dibosh" with you to mark Bangladesh's victory over anti-liberation forces," he said. “It has been key priority for me to strengthen ties with Bangladesh," Modi added.
Bijoy Dibosh or Victory Day is celebrated on December 16 to commemorate the victory of the Bangladeshi forces over the Pakistan army in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971.
Highlighting the restoration of Bangladesh's rail links to India's north-eastern states, Hasina said, "Our ongoing connectivity initiatives are catalysts in this regard (integration of the two economies). A prime example is the resumption of Chilahati-Haldibari rail link which we will inaugurate today."
"Throughout 2020 we have witnessed a number of initiatives such as trade through rail routes, high level visits and meetings, capacity-building initiatives, the first trial run of Indian cargo from Kolkata to North-East India and of course, cooperation on Covid-19," she said.