PM to visit India in October
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will visit India in October to further bilateral relations between the two friendly neighbours.
The schedule of the official visit, the first after the formation of the new government in India in May this year, is yet to be fixed.
“We are working on the date and agenda. Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will visit Bangladesh on August 20-21,” Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told reporters at his office yesterday.
Hasina last went to India on a state visit on April 7-10 in 2017, around a couple of years after her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi visited Bangladesh.
Momen said the issues, which are likely to figure prominently in the talks during the PM’s visit, include speeding up disbursement of Indian lines of credit (LoC), water-sharing of the 54 common rivers and the Rohingya crisis.
He noted that Dhaka will specifically highlight the Indian LoC.
The foreign minister mentioned that he raised the issue with Jaishankar last week on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum’s conference in Thailand.
“He [Jaishankar] told me he would surely look into it.”
According to Bangladesh finance ministry officials, projects under the three Indian lines of credit of around $7.5 billion are facing delays mainly due to technical and bureaucratic reasons, and both sides are responsible for this.
In the last eight years, Bangladesh managed to use $523 million of the $862-million first LoC despite various steps to expedite utilisation of the funds.
Bangladesh has so far used $14 million of the $2-billion second LoC. India is yet to disburse any money from the $4.5 billion third LoC, the officials said.
“I have asked the officials to take stock of the projects and find out the bottlenecks and ways to speed up the projects,” Momen said.
The two countries will also discuss sharing of water of the 54 common rivers, he said.
Asked about the much-talked-about Teesta deal, Momen said he had talked to Jaishankar, who told him that there was progress on the matter but didn’t give any timeframe for signing the deal.
“The matter is under the jurisdiction of the state government, not the central government [of India],” Momen mentioned.
Referring to his discussions with Jaishankar on the Rohingya crisis, the foreign minister said India wants the Rohingya repatriation to start this month.
“He [Jaishankar] told me to go for repatriation of the Rohingyas soon… preferably in mid-August… even if the number is small…,” he said, adding that India is ready to provide support in this regard.
Momen further said Jaishankar conveyed to him that India built 250 houses in the Rakhine State with accommodation capacity for 1,000 people.
“I hope the process can start this month.”
On reports of India’s request for using a piece of land in Brahmanbaria for the expansion and upgradation of Agartala airport, the minister said he has not received any letter from India.
“I don’t have any knowledge about it… no one has approached me on this matter.”
Referring to his meetings with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on the sidelines of the ASEAN conference, Momen said he requested both to repatriate the convicted killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The minister said he told them that the repatriation of the killers was important to uphold the rule of law.
Bangabandhu’s killer Noor Chowdhury is residing in Canada, while another killer, Rashed Chowdhury, is in the US.