Petrapole: Ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s proposed visit to Bangladesh next month, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on Saturday laid the foundation of a Rs 172-crore integrated check post along the border which would boost trade between the two countries.
"It will be a historic visit, when five chief ministers of bordering states, including Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal, will accompany him," Chidambaram, flanked by his Bangladeshi counterpart Sahara Khatun, said.
He said, development of the modern check post and the prime minister`s visit would help strengthen ties between the two countries and augment trade volumes substantially.
Singh would travel to the Dhaka on September 6, when some agreements are expected to be signed.
Khatun acknowledged India`s role in Bangladesh`s freedom movement, saying "Whenever we think of India, we recall Indira Gandhi`s contribution. The way the Indira government helped us in the 1972 liberation struggle and the people of West Bengal cooperated, we will remember you forever."
She said, Mamata Banerjee is a familiar name in Bangladesh "and she is loved by all".
Chidambaram said, the integrated check post would be completed in 17 months.
The government is building 13 integrated check posts the country`s borders, and of these seven are along the India- Bangladesh border, he said, adding the Land port Authority of India, a statutory body, would manage these posts.
Chidambaram said, modern check posts along the Bangladesh border are very essential for passengers and goods traffic.
"Today, lots of goods go from India to Bangladesh and lots come to India from Bangladesh."
"India wants not just hilsa fish but more goods to come from Bangladesh," he said.
"We also want thousands of people from India travel to Bangladesh on visa and thousands of people to come to India from Bangladesh on visa. All these require facilities to be created. There must be facilities for passengers, trucks, truck drivers, cargoes, for containers and that is precisely what, we plan to do today," he said.
Referring to the existing facilities at check posts, Chidambaram said, "We have hardly enough (infrastructure) to support (goods) traffic worth about Rs 10,000 crore. In the years ahead, Rs 10,000 crore worth traffic will multiply to Rs 20,000 crore, Rs 50,000 crore, Rs 100,000 crore. Therefore, we need to expand the facilities and that is precisely what, we are doing."
Chidambaram said, Bangladesh and India share a long- standing relationship of history, culture, language and heritage.
"Bangladesh is a free country and we are proud of it," he said, adding that India remembers Bangabandhu (the late Sheikh Mujibur Rehman) and those, who lost their lives in the struggle for freedom.
In the past many years, he said, both the countries had made efforts to strengthen mutual relationship.
Under the integrated checkpost, there will be cargo process building, passenger terminal building, cargo inspection shed, quarantine laboratory, warehouse and cold storages, isolation bay, clearing agent, banks, parking facilities, cafeteria and Internet facilities.