Akhaura-Agartala Rail Link



Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the Agartala-Akhaura rail link project.


  1. During Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to New Delhi in January 2010, India and Bangladesh decided to build a railway from Akhaura in Bangladesh to Nischintapur in Agartala, India. The first goods train on meter gauge has now entered Nischintapur from Bangladesh.
  2. Gangasagar is the first station on the Bangladesh side that connects to India via Nischintapur.


The construction began in 2018.

Total Length:  12.24 km

  1. Indian side: 5.46 km
  2. Bangladesh side: 6.78 km
Akhaura junction in Bangladesh’s Brahmanbaria district, part of the Chittagong division, has a historical connection with India’s northeastern region dating back to the colonial era. The junction’s initial construction in the late 19th century was driven by the demand from Assam’s tea industry, which sought a connection to the Chittagong port.



  1. Enhanced Bilateral Relations: The railway link will strengthen ties between India and Bangladesh.
  2. Promotion of Tourism: It will encourage tourism and cultural exchange between the two nations.
  3. Trade Growth: Facilitates trade by providing a faster transportation route.
  4. Boosting Small Scale Industries: The project supports the growth of small industries in the border area.
  5. Tourism in Northeast: It will boost tourism in the Northeastern region of India.
  6. Efficient Import-Export: Speeds up the import and export of goods, aiding local producers.
  7. Alignment with ‘Act East Policy’: This project aligns with Prime Minister Modi’s vision of the ‘Act East Policy’, which focuses on strengthening India’s ties with its eastern neighbors.
  8. Reduced Distance: The distance between Agartala and Kolkata will be reduced to 513 kilometres with the opening of the rail services.
  9. Significant Time Savings: The travel time between Agartala and Kolkata via Dhaka is anticipated to decrease from 31 hours to just 10 hours, resulting in substantial time savings for travellers.
  10. Direct Access: It will create a direct access route between the landlocked northeastern part of India and the Chittagong port in Bangladesh.


  1. Diplomatic Relations:

India was the first country to recognize Bangladesh as an independent state in 1971.

India and Bangladesh marked their 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2021.

Strong civilisational, cultural, social, and economic ties exist between the two nations.

Release of Friendship Stamps: Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties, India and Bangladesh have released Friendship Stamps.

In March 2021, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Bangladesh to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Bangladesh’s Independence, the Birth Centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (Father of the Nation), and 50 years of diplomatic relations between India and Bangladesh.During this visit, India also conferred the Gandhi Peace Prize 2020 to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
  1. Geopolitical Significance:

Bangladesh’s location as India’s eastern neighbour holds strategic importance.

It provides India with access to the Bay of Bengal and a vital trade route to Southeast Asia.

Inauguration of Border Haats: Three border haats were inaugurated to promote cross-border trade and interaction between Nalikata-Saydabad, Ryngku-Bagan Bari, and Bholagunj-Bholagunj.

Rooppur Power Evacuation Project: The foundation stone has been laid for this project, which covers various packages connecting different areas.

The 100th Amendment of the Indian Constitution passed in 2015, established the exchange of some territories between Bangladesh and India. It approved the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement (and its 2011 protocol), which resulted in the exchange of enclaves and the retention of property.
  1. Economic Cooperation:

Bangladesh is India’s largest trading partner in the subcontinent.

India facilitates the export of cargo to Bangladesh through inland waterways and streamlines transshipment of export cargo to third countries.

Duty-free access to Bangladesh on most tariff lines has been granted under SAFTA.

Trade: In 2023, both countries launched a trade transaction in rupees to strengthen regional currency and trade.

In 2006, India, along with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, signed the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) under the aegis of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC).

The South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) is the free trade arrangement of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The agreement came into force in 2006, succeeding the 1993 SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement.The main objectives of SAFTA are as follows:

1.      To promote trade liberalization in the South Asian region.

2.      To provide a framework for the elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade among member countries.

3.      To promote economic cooperation and integration among member countries.

  1. Tourism:

Bangladesh was the second-largest tourist-generating market for India in 2021.

  1. Defence Cooperation:

India and Bangladesh share a 4096.7 km border, the longest land boundary India has with any neighbor.

Joint military exercises, including Army (Exercise Sampriti) and Navy (Exercise Bongosagar), are conducted.

Memorial Foundation Stone: A foundation stone was laid at Ashuganj, Brahmanbaria, to honor the Martyrs of the Indian Armed Forces who sacrificed their lives during the Liberation War of 1971.

India celebrates Vijay Divas on December 16 every year to commemorate the victory of the Indian Army over the Pakistan Army in the liberation war of Bangladesh (1971).

  1. Energy and Connectivity:

The India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline connects Siliguri in West Bengal to Parbatipur in Dinajpur district, transporting High-Speed Diesel to Bangladesh.

Cross-border infrastructure projects include the Akhaura-Agartala rail link and Maitri Setu.

Inauguration of ‘Mitali Express’: A passenger train service called ‘Mitali Express’ was inaugurated, covering the Dhaka-New Jalpaiguri-Dhaka route via the Chilahati-Haldibari rail link.

Linking Historic Road: The two sides announced plans to link the historic road between Mujibnagar and Nadia, which will be called Shadhinota Shorok.

500 MW additional power supply from India to Bangladesh: With completion of this project, India will be supplying around 1.16 Gigawatts of power to Bangladesh. This project announced during his PM Modi’s visit to Bangladesh in 2015.

  1. Multilateral Cooperation:

Both nations engage in regional cooperation through multilateral forums like SAARC, BIMSTEC, and IORA.

1.      South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)2.      Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).

3.      Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)


  1. Sharing of Transboundary River Waters: While they share 54 common rivers, only two treaties have been signed so far- Ganga Waters Treaty and Kushiyara River. Negotiations for rivers like the Teesta and Feni are ongoing.
What is the Teesta River Dispute?1.      The Teesta River Dispute is a long-standing issue between India and Bangladesh.

2.      The dispute revolves around the river’s flow during the lean season, impacting the livelihoods of people in both countries.

3.      The Teesta River drains 2,800 square kilometres of Bangladesh and flows through Sikkim and West Bengal in India.

4.      A proposed deal for equitable water distribution in 1983 faced execution challenges.

5.      Bangladesh wants 50% of the water supply from December to March, while India seeks 55%.


  1. Illegal Migration: Illegal migration from Bangladesh to India, involving refugees and economic migrants, remains a pressing issue. This places a strain on Indian border states, impacting resources and security. The Rohingya refugee crisis has added complexity to this problem.
  2. National Register of Citizens (NRC): India’s NRC, aimed at curbing illegal migration, has raised concerns in Bangladesh.
  3. Drug Smuggling & Trafficking: Cross-border drug smuggling and human trafficking, especially of women and children, are significant issues. Wildlife poaching also occurs through the borders.
  4. Growing Chinese Influence in Bangladesh: Bangladesh’s participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has raised concerns about China’s increasing influence in the region, which could impact India’s strategic interests.

How can India work towards improving its relations with Bangladesh?

  1. Economic Cooperation: Collaborate on joint infrastructure projects such as the construction of the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline and the India-Bangladesh Power Connectivity Project. These initiatives boost economic ties and strengthen connectivity between the two countries.
  2. Security Collaboration: Enhance cooperation in counterterrorism efforts, sharing intelligence and expertise. For instance, joint operations against transnational criminal organizations and extremist groups can demonstrate shared security goals.
  3. Protecting Minorities: India can support measures to protect minority communities in Bangladesh and address issues such as religious discrimination. By doing so, it contributes to regional stability and the prosperity of minority populations.

Promoting People-to-People Ties: Encourage cultural exchanges and educational programs, such as scholarships for Bangladeshi students to study in India, and vice versa. These initiatives foster mutual understanding and build strong interpersonal connections between the two nations.

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