India and Bangladesh launched two new railway links and a thermal power plant unit Wednesday to strengthen connections and energy security in the region amid strong opposition protests in Bangladesh.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina jointly inaugurated the three Indian-assisted development projects via video conferencing.
India provided $47.8 million for a cross-border train link and a $388.92 million concessional line of credit for the Khulna-Mongla port rail line in Bangladesh. India provided another $1.6 billion for Bangladesh’s 1,320-megawatt super-thermal power project, according to India’s External Affairs Ministry.
Hasina is facing street protests from opposition supporters who demand that her government resign and hand power to a nonpartisan caretaker to oversee a general election next year.
At least six people have been killed and dozens injured during street protests since Saturday, officials said.
Hasina considers a partnership with India politically significant for regional peace and development. However, India has not commented directly on the recent unrest. The Dhaka-based embassies of Western countries, especially the United States, have regularly issued statements calling for both sides to show restraint and to find a way for a free, fair and participatory election.
China and Russia issued statements in recent months criticizing Washington for pressing for a dialogue between Hasina’s government and the opposition on the national election that is expected in Bangladesh in January.
China also is involved in many mega projects in Bangladesh, while Russia is building the country’s first nuclear power plant.
India and Bangladesh share historical and cultural ties; Bengali, which is spoken in both countries, is a strong bond. Bilateral relations have improved since Hasina and her Awami League party came to power in 2009.
During her September 2022 visit to India, the two countries signed a water-sharing agreement and six other pacts, including ones on space technology and scientific collaboration.
Since Hasina became prime minister, her government has addressed India’s concerns about anti-India militant groups taking shelter on Bangladeshi soil. However, India has failed to sign an agreement on sharing the waters of the River Teesta, a key Bangladesh demand.
Another serious concern for Bangladesh is the use of lethal weapons by the Indian border security force to kill Bangladeshis suspected of involvement in smuggling or illegally crossing the border. Unauthorized immigration to India from Bangladesh has dogged the countries’ bilateral ties for years.