Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said that her government wants to reopen the rail links with India for better connectivity and to promote trade, investment and people-to-people contact. The rail link was snapped in 1965.
Having studied this year's Indian Railways budget, Hasina was in contact with Indian Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee to discuss the revival of the rail link, she told a visiting Indian business delegation on Tuesday.
She sought greater connectivity across South Asia, urging Indian facilitation in transacting trade and business with Nepal and Bhutan through the Banglabandh and Burimari land port routes.
She invited greater Indian investment in Bangladesh, particularly in labour-intensive ventures, The Daily Star newspaper said on Wednesday.
Hasina made the remarks when a 50-member business delegation from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) led by its vice-president Harsh C Mariwala met her.
Upbeat on rail connectivity, she promised "immediate effective steps" to upgrade the existing facilities within Bangladesh, United News of Bangladesh (UNB) news agency reported.
"I have also seen the rail budget of your country (India). You have expertise in the sector of railway communications. We need your help in this regard," she told the business leaders.
She informed the delegation that all land ports located on the Bangladesh-India border will be developed and other necessary infrastructures will be set up there gradually to boost bilateral trade between the two countries.
Her government also had a plan to develop Mongla seaport as part of the government's plan to turn Bangladesh into a prosperous modern country by 2021.
When the Indian business delegation urged her to set up special economic zones (SEZs) exclusively for Indian investment, she said the government had already planned to build such zones where, like others, Indian businessmen too can invest.
On SEZs for Indian investment, she said: "If the Indian businessmen come forward to set up such zones in Bangladesh, the present government will extend all necessary cooperation."
Singling out poverty as the main enemy of the South Asian nations, Hasina said Bangladesh and all its neighbouring countries, including India, should work together to expand trade and business for balanced development of the region through eradicating poverty.
"We have resources. Our people are also very much capable and industrious. If we can work unitedly, poverty will be eliminated as well as development of all the nations will be achieved," she said.
Commerce Minister Faruk Khan identified lack of testing facilities in Bangladesh as one of the big obstacles to trade and business with India.
"Indian authorities do not accept the testing certificates provided by the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI). But I can assure you that in the next six months, BSTI will be upgraded to such standards which will be accepted by the Indian authorities," he said.
"But, at the same time, we have to have the assurance of exporting more products to India," he added.