Modi, Hasina open 131.5-km oil pipeline to Bangladesh
Indian PM says better connectivity will strengthen people-to-people relations; his Bangladesh counterpart expresses thanks for partnership in her country’s quest for energy security
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Saturday virtually inaugurated the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline that will bring diesel from Assam’s Numaligarh refinery’s marketing depot in Siliguri to Parbatipur in northern Bangladesh.
Welcoming the initiative, Ms. Hasina thanked Mr. Modi and the Chief Minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma, but skipped any mention of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The omission is being interpreted as a sign of Bangladesh’s unhappiness regarding the planned construction of hydel power projects in West Bengal that may divert the waters of the Teesta river and have been in the middle of a stalled negotiation for more than a decade.
The 131.57-km-long pipeline will bring diesel from a marketing depot in Siliguri to Dinajpur of Bangladesh. Ms. Hasina and Mr. Modi had inaugurated the works for laying the pipeline in September 2018.
In her speech, Ms. Hasina thanked India for its partnership in her country’s quest for energy security, saying, “Out of the total length of the pipeline, Bangladesh has 126.57 km and India has five kilometres. The pipeline has become operational from today. Many countries in the world are suffering from energy insecurity because of the Russia-Ukraine war, but this pipeline will help our people.” She added that at least 16 districts of Bangladesh would benefit from the pipeline.
Mr. Modi praised Ms. Hasina’s leadership, and said, “Whether it is in the field of transport, energy, electricity, or digital field, the more our connectivity increases, the more our people-to-people relations will be strengthened.”.
The omission of Ms. Banerjee’s name is being viewed as a subtle message conveying Dhaka’s unhappiness about reports of West Bengal’s plans to construct hydel power projects and canals near Darjeeling to irrigate agricultural fields in Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar that may divert the Teesta’s waters.
Seheli Sabrin, spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh, had said on Thursday that Dhaka may raise the issue at the UN Water Conference in New York. The water issue is also significant for Ms. Hasina, who is poised to face a general election this year where her government’s inability to get the waters of the Teesta may make her a target of attack from her Opposition, led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.