A virtual summit will be held between PM Narendra Modi and Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina on December 17.
They would hold comprehensive discussions on ties, including strengthening cooperation in the post-Covid era.
The signalling of the summit is also important, coming as it does when there is speculation in the popular discourse of a dilution in this strategic partnership.
It said both the countries have continued to maintain regular exchanges at the highest level. Ties between India and Bangladesh have witnessed a significant upswing in the last few years.
Both sides have scaled up trade and economic engagement besides implementing a number of connectivity and infrastructure projects, the ministry said.
Bangladesh is commemorating 2020-21 as ‘Mujib Borsho’ on the occasion of the centennial birth anniversary of ‘Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding leader of the country.
India’s links with Bangladesh are civilizational, cultural, social and economic.
India played the great role in emergence of independent Bangladesh and was the first country to recognise Bangladesh as separate state.
The historic land boundary agreement signed in 2015 opened a new era in the relations.
Both the countries are the common members of SAARC, BIMSTEC, IORA and the Commonwealth.
India has always stood by Bangladesh in its hour of need with aid and economic assistance to help it cope with natural disasters and floods.
Recent Agreements between India and Bangladesh:
- The use of the Chattogram and Mongla ports in Bangladesh for movement of goods to and from India, particularly from Northeastern India.
- Use of Bangladesh’s Feni river for drinking water supply in Tripura.
- However, no progress was reported on the long pending Teesta water sharing agreement.
- Exchange of data and information to prepare a framework of interim sharing agreements for six rivers — Manu, Muhuri, Khowai and Gomati rivers of Tripura and Dharla river of Bangladesh and Dudhkumar river of West Bengal.
- Daudkanti (Bangladesh)-Sonamura (Tripura) inland water trade route to be included under Protocol of the Inland Water Transit and Trade.
- Consensus on lifting restrictions on entry and exit from land ports in India for Bangladeshi citizens travelling on valid documents.
- Implementation of the Lines of Credit (LoCs) committed by India to Bangladesh.
Agreements to be sign in virtual summit:
Virtual summit will include more connectivity and “high-impact” infrastructure projects and a possible mechanism to oversee projects under concessional Lines of Credit (LoCs) of nearly $10 billion from India in 2017.
Progress on a petroleum ‘friendship’ pipeline from Siliguri to Bangladesh’s Dinajpur that was agreed to in 2018 and began construction, will also be discussed.
In addition, talks are on for a sub-regional electricity grid sharing project which would see Bhutan and Bangladesh contribute power, but officials said they are awaiting Cross-Border Trade in Electricity (CBTE) guidelines from India.
“Major issues” including the water sharing agreement for the Teesta and at least six other rivers as well as continued reports of killings of its nationals at the border would also be raised by PM Hasina.
Contentions that need to be solved:
- Teesta river water sharing agreement has not been signed due to opposition from West Bengal. (River is a State subject is notable in this context).
- The two countries have also had initial talks on water sharing for other peninsular rivers including the Monu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gomti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.
- India shares a porous border with Bangladesh and as a result illegal immigration from Bangladesh to Indian territories like West Bengal and North Eastern states have become a source of conflicts in these areas.
- Indian visa for Bangladeshi travellers is not easy to obtain.
- Bangladesh recently suffers from political and social crisis due to communal violence and increase in terrorist activities.
Concerns regarding NRC and CAA:
Meeting would also seek to set aside concerns in Bangladesh over the Modi government’s plans for a National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), which led to massive protests in Dhaka last year ahead of PM Modi’s visit there, which was subsequently cancelled.
Four ministerial visits to India from Bangladesh were also cancelled.
Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary had also formally raised the issue of blacklisting and arresting more than 2,500 Bangladeshi Tablighi Jamaat members, who had been accused of violating the coronavirus lockdown, but were released by the courts.
Mr. Modi will hold talks with Ms. Hasina a day after Bangladesh’s “liberation day”, the anniversary of the day in 1971 the Pakistani army surrendered, which is celebrated in both India and Bangladesh as Bijoy or Vijay Diwas.
The timing of the virtual summit was significant and the two sides would “acknowledge the contributions of the then Indian Prime Minister [(Indira Gandhi]” in Bangladesh’s victory.
Deepening relationship with Bangladesh has become a necessity in the face of shifting geo-economics.
Bangladesh, with its growing economic success, and with its 8 percent growth rate provides a vital partnership in the region.
There is scope for India-Bangladesh ties to move to the next level, based on cooperation, coordination and consolidation as Prime Minister has termed the present period of relationship between the two countries as ‘Sonali Adhyay’(golden chapter).
India needs to consolidate the golden chapter in India-Bangla relations by jointly developing and pursuing with Dhaka an ambitious framework for shared prosperity.