'Act East': India-Bangladesh new train service opens trade route to Mongla sea port

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi & his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Thursday jointly flagged off a cross-border passenger train that will run between India's eastern city of Kolkata & Bangladesh's southwestern industrial city of Khulna Photograph:( Reuters )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Nov 09, 2017, 02.04 PM (IST)

PM Modi and prime minister Sheikh Hasina flagged off India-Bangladesh 'Bandhan' (Bond) Express train service today.

The Bandhan Express is the second train service between the two countries after the Maitree Express, which connected Kolkata to Dhaka in 2008.

The new train service will run between Kolkata and Bangladesh's southwestern city Khulna.

Khulna, the third-largest city in the country is a major industrial town. Mongla port situated nearly 50kms from Khulna is the second busiest seaport of Bangladesh after Chittagong.  

In fact, due to heavy congestion in Chittagong, several companies now prefer trading through Mongla port.

In a well-crafted move, the Modi government has moved strategically to link Khulna in order to open a crucial trade route with east Asia, in a bid to further India's "Act East" policy.

The Act East policy unfurled in 2015 after the NDA came to power looks to extend India's influence in the Asia-Pacific region. It is also a "tool" to gain political and strategic leverage through trade with ASEAN countries.

Bangladesh is the stepping stone to India's 'Act East' policy, a crucial corridor to gain access to new markets in a region where India would like to increase its footprint.

India has been trying to push its ASEAN agenda quite aggressively. In fact, next year PM Modi has invited several heads of state for the 26 January parade, the list includes heads of all ASEAN members.

The 'Bandhan Express' is a  fully air-conditioned weekly passenger train service which will run every Thursday from both Kolkata and Khulna.

PM Modi, West Bengal chief minister Mamta Banerjee and PM  Hasina also inaugurated two bridges over Meghna and Titas river in Bangladesh with India continuing to help its neighbour build "economic bridge" with India.