The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina recently, for the import of bulk LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) from Bangladesh marks an important milestone in further cementing mutual ties between the two neighbours.
The Indian government’s move to reach an understanding with Bangladesh to primarily address the unique challenge of ensuring smooth supply of LPG to the North-eastern state of Tripura speaks volumes about growing cordiality and understanding of each other’s difficulties and finding ways of effectively addressing them.
In this case, the bulk import of LPG from Bangladesh to the border state of India will not only ensure year round supply of LPG but also result in substantial reduction in transportation costs and time.
At present, Tripura gets LPG supplies from Guwahati via the state of Meghalaya or Silchar (287 kilometres). For the LPG tankers starting from Guwahati for their 600 kilometres trek, it is a long journey through the hilly, landslide prone roads. Come rainy season, the supplies of essentials such as LPG are disrupted for days.
Once India starts importing LPG from Bangladesh through the two designated private suppliers in trucks from Bangladesh; the travelling distance from the nearest Bangladesh port of Mongla to Indian Oil Corporation’s West Tripura bottling plant will drastically come down to just 120 kilometres.
Both Mr. Modi and Ms. Hasina have underlined the importance of closer and mutually beneficial bilateral relations, notwithstanding occasional challenges.
The supply of LPG will be ensured through exports by two LPG firms of Bangladesh and state owned Indian Oil Corporation which will bottle and sell it. The MoU for bulk LPG imports from Bangladesh also assumes significance from India’s long term energy delivery plans for the region falling on its eastern coast. At present, India has solid infrastructure for oil and gas import on its western cost.
The India-Bangladesh Agreement will also ensure dependable access to gas and fuel supplies to the region hitherto starved of essential fuel needs.
The export of LPG is also likely to result in job creation and income generation for Bangladesh besides ensuring ease of living in both countries, a point underlined by Prime Minister Modi in his brief address in the presence of Sheikh Hasina.
Bangladesh has come forward to facilitate the import of LPG and other essentials to the North-eastern parts of India. Bangladesh has allocated 1000 acres of land to India in Mirsharai Economic Zone near Chittagong sea port for Indian investors. Bangladesh has also allowed India to use Ashuganj and Mongla ports for long time to strengthen trade relations, particularly with North- eastern states of India.
Continuing with the spirit bilateral cooperation, rail connectivity between Bangladesh and North-east India will be re-established via Akhaura. Roads will be opened up once the construction of a bridge over River Feni is completed, further opening up new avenues of mutual growth and prosperity.
Bangladesh Prime minister Sheikh Hasina termed the cooperation in bulk LPG import a ‘model of good neighbourliness’. India on its part through its Indian Oil Corporation (IoC) has since offered expertise to set up oil infrastructure in Bangladesh.
According to geologists Bangladesh’s maritime exclusive economic zone holds one of the largest oil and gas reserves in Asia-Pacific region. India can chip in as a major partner in providing affordable technological expertise to help Bangladesh emerge as a major global hydrocarbon producer.
Today, India’s relations with Bangladesh is marked by ‘humanity, heritage, dynamic partnership and exchange at the highest level’. The bilateral trade between two countries has increased from US $9 billion to US $10.46 billion in 2018-19. India is also working with Bangladesh to set up a gas grid.
The aim is to import LNG from Bangladesh through pipelines to North-east India. India recently experienced its fastest rate of energy consumption for more than a decade. This is likely to double by 2040. These developments augur well for both the countries, keen on making the best out of their mutual hopes and aspirations.
Script: Dipankar Chakraborty, Spl. Representative, the Statesman