As Pakistan continues to object to India’s proposed trans-continent container train run from Dhaka to Istanbul citing security reasons, Indian Railways has changed its tracks and is set to run its first such train to Dhaka on Tuesday.
The 30-container train will carry food grains and other materials in its maiden run from Kolkata to the west of the Bangabandhu bridge in Dhaka.
“Once established, the movement of container cargo is expected to transform the logistics pattern of movement of goods between the two countries,” Railway Board Member (traffic) Mohammad Jamshed told The Indian Express on Monday.
Customs clearance will take place in West Bengal’s Ranaghat and Bangladesh’s Banga Bandhu via Darshana/Gede.
Currently, containers have to be sent by sea, through a roundabout route. It is much slower than what the rail route offers.
The thrust for the India-Bangladesh route for container movement comes even as Pakistan has put a spanner in the ambitious plan of a similar container movement from Dhaka to Istanbul through Pakistan and Iran, despite all parties being on board under the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and the route being ready.
Pakistan has refused to agree to container movement through the Attari border since last year citing security concerns. The Indian Railways has been given to understand that under the “present climate” of bilateral relations between the two countries, the matter would have to wait.
The Dhaka-Istanbul run was seen as India’s answer to China’s container train run to Europe.
According to the deliberations between India and Bangladesh, there is demand for de-oiled cake from Nagpur, sugar from Western Uttar Pradesh, rice and cement from Chhattisgarh, cotton from Ludhiana, clay from Rajasthan and even ready garments from Ahmedabad.
There is a demand for four 50 to 60-container rakes from India to Bangladesh, mostly bound for Chittagong port by rail and then further by sea route.
At present, the Bangabandhu rail bridge is unable to carry the load of these container rakes and there have been talks with Bangladesh for upgrading the service for seamless movement of the shipment till Chittagong port.
In the maiden run, the containers by rail will go till the Bangabandhu bridge and then cross over by road.
The railways has already obtained security clearances from the Foreign Secretary and the Ministry of External Affairs.