Connectivity beyond Bangladesh, India
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi have renewed their commitments to solidify relations between the two countries and establish peace and stability in the entire South Asia region.
The visiting Indian PM sat with Hasina yesterday evening to discuss ways of settling the pending issues and the future course of action that can take the ties between the two countries to new heights.
At the bilateral meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Dhaka, they put emphasis on robust regional connectivity for expanding trade.
Modi lauded Hasina's initiatives regarding multimodal connectivity.
Bangladesh expressed its interest to join the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway Project for getting connected to Southeast Asia by road. Also, it has sought greater access to Indian territory to be linked with Nepal and Bhutan and requested Delhi to approve new routes.
At a press briefing last night, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said, "If this initiative is implemented, Bangladesh's export capacity will increase as it will largely reduce time and cost of transporting goods."
Dhaka also sought to establish rail connectivity up to Bhutan through the recently inaugurated Chilahati-Haldibari route.
"The relationship between Bangladesh and India has been a model of bilateral relationship… Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit has given it a new impetus."
He said the two leaders had substantive discussions that are expected to further strengthen the relations.
The two countries signed memorandums of understanding (MoUs) in the areas of disaster management, cooperation between cadet corps, trade remedial measures, ICT and sports.
Modi gifted Hasina a pashmina shawl and a collection of video of Bangabandhu's homecoming from Pakistan jail via London in 1972.
He invited Hasina to visit India next year on the occasion of the golden jubilee of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The Indian PM flew back home last night, wrapping up his two-day visit. Earlier on Friday, he took part in the celebrations of Mujib Borsho and the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence.
At yesterday's meeting, both Hasina and Modi stressed the need for signing trilateral MoU involving Bangladesh, India and Nepal to implement the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement.
Referring to the newly inaugurated Feni Bridge, Modi lauded Bangladesh's generosity for the establishment of connectivity between India's Northeast and the rest of the country through Bangladesh territory.
The two leaders discussed sub-regional energy cooperation involving Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan.
Momen said Bangladesh is eager to import hydropower from Nepal and Bhutan, and it can export power to the energy-deficient Northeast India.
Hasina thanked Modi for the Covid-19 vaccines given to Bangladesh as gifts. She also requested him to see that the next tranches of vaccines that Bangladesh purchased from the Serum Institute of India are delivered timely.
They discussed ways of removing tariff and non-tariff barriers to reduce the trade deficit faced by Bangladesh. Dhaka has requested Delhi to withdraw anti-dumping duties imposed by India on Bangladesh's jute exports since 2017.
The two leaders also stressed the need for infrastructure development of land ports and cooperation on harmonising standards between Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution and the Bureau of Indian Standards.
Momen said Hasina reiterated the urgency to sign the Teesta water-sharing deal soon. In response, Modi said India is committed to signing the deal and that efforts are on to this end.
Dhaka also urged Delhi to sign an MoU to carry out dredging in the Kushiara River.
Momen said both leaders expressed satisfaction over institutional cooperation on security. Modi thanked Bangladesh for all-out cooperation on ensuring security in India's Northeast.
Bangladesh strongly requested India to ensure that no Bangladeshi is killed by India's Border Security Force.
The two premiers gave directives to the BGB and the BSF to work in close coordination under "Comprehensive Border Management Plan" for peace, harmony and stability at the border. The meeting decided to conduct sensitising campaigns for the people in the bordering areas to prevent risky movements.
At a separate briefing, Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said Modi's visit was "substantive, historically symbolical and very special."
He said the two prime ministers discussed new areas such as artificial intelligence, societal application of nuclear energy and expansion of cooperation in the space sector.
Shringla said the two leaders also decided to celebrate December 6 annually as "Maitri Diwas", marking the day on which India formally recognised Bangladesh.
"The Indian side also requested for early finalisation of a draft for sharing of water of the Feni River pending with the Bangladeshi side.
"River water cooperation is something that will continue."
He further said India will continue to work for safe, speedy and sustainable repatriation of the Rohingya refugees to Myanmar from Bangladesh.
India will be involved in the development of the transmission lines for the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Bangladesh under the Indian Line of Credit, he mentioned.
"A significant part of our third line of credit will go to civil nuclear cooperation. Transmission lines of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant will be developed by Indian companies under the line of credit. Value of these transmission lines will be worth over $1 billion."
The Indian foreign secretary said Modi proposed a joint business exhibition, styled "Best of Bangladesh, Best of India," and announced 1,000 scholarships for Bangladeshi students. Besides, "Bangabandhu Chair" will be established at Delhi University.
Replying to a query on Modi's visit to two temples in Gopalganj and Satkhira and his meeting with Matua community leaders, Shringla said the Indian PM had actually desired to visit those two places when he visited Bangladesh in 2015 but he couldn't at that time.
Modi was happy that he could visit the two places this time, he added.
"We just don't visit the capitals, meet each other and go back. We share so much of history, culture and legacy that we also visit different parts of the countries. So, I think we should not look at this from a narrow perspective," he mentioned.
Yesterday, Modi began his day by offering prayers at the Joshoreshwari Kali Temple at Ishwaripur village in Satkhira. He then went to the mausoleum of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Tungipara to pay homage to the Father of the Nation. Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana accompanied him.
Later, he visited Harichand Thakur's temple at Orakandi in Gopalganj's Kashiani before flying back to Dhaka.
Addressing the members of the Matua community at Orakandi, Modi said, "India and Bangladesh want to see the progress of the whole world through their development and their progress. Both countries want stability, love and peace in place of instability, terror and unrest in the world."
He said India is moving forward with the mantra of "SabkaSaath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwas".
"At the same time, Bangladesh is presenting a strong example of development and change in front of the world and India is Bangladesh's 'ShohoJatri' in these efforts," he noted.
In the afternoon, Modi had a tete-a-tete with Hasina before the bilateral meeting at the PMO where top officials from the both countries were present. In the evening, Modi also called on President Abdul Hamid at the Bangabhaban.
Modi arrived in Dhaka on Friday morning and paid tribute to the martyrs of the Liberation War at the National Martyrs Memorial in Savar. He also met political leaders from the opposition and the 14-party alliance, minority leaders, youngsters from the cultural and sports arena at Sonargaon Hotel.
On Friday afternoon, Modi and the members of his delegation, including Indian freedom fighters attended the celebrations at the National Parade Square. He delivered a speech as the guest of honour.
In the evening, Modi and Hasina inaugurated the "Bangabandhu-Bapu Digital Exhibition" in Dhaka.