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New Delhi: India has taken a slew of initiatives, including launch of a multi-modal link via Chittagong port to Bangladesh, over the past two weeks for strengthening the trade ties amid China’s bid to increase influence in the country’s eastern neighbourhood.

As part of the latest initiative, 10 broadgauge (BG) locomotives were handed over to Dhaka by external affairs minister S Jaishankar and railways minister Piyush Goyal on Monday.

The central government has had to do some manoeuvering for these projects amid confrontation with the West Bengal government which has been creating hurdles to slow down cross-border land trade, citing the “spread of Covid” from Bangladesh.

Speaking at the handing over ceremony, Jaishankar highlighted the depth of India-Bangladesh ties while Goyal underscored the importance of railway connectivity to increase bilateral trade.

Recently China not only tried to lure Bangladesh via trade concessions, which critics dubbed a ‘dual-deficit and debt trap’, but also tried to use Bangladesh population for anti-Covid vaccine trial. Last week, Dhaka put on hold its earlier decision to allow the trial.

India and Bangladesh are jointly working to enhance rail connectivity by developing some crucial projects as well as by restoring some old rail links, said sources.

Atotal of 17 railway sector projects have been included in the Line of Credit (LoC) assistance extended by India to Bangladesh, with a commitment of $2.44 billion.

India has offered all LoCs to Bangladesh at a rate of interest of 1% per annum, repayment over 20 years with a moratorium for five years. Last Friday, the first container train to connect the two countries through Petrapole-Benapole border in West Bengal departed India. This train carried 40 containers of fast-moving consumer goods cargo and 10 containers of fabrics.

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