Bangladesh PM to boost bilateral ties with India during 4-day visit

The two countries are likely to ink seven agreements



Photos: AP
Photos: AP

By AP

Published: Tue 6 Sep 2022, 12:47 PM

On Tuesday, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister was welcomed to India with a ceremony in the capital, New Delhi — a four-day visit aimed at boosting bilateral ties.

Sheikh Hasina shook hands with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at the Rashtrapati Bhavan Presidential Palace, and officials said the two leaders are expected to discuss deals on connectivity, energy, food security, and trade, later in the day.

Hasina said the two countries enjoyed a friendly relationship focused on alleviating poverty and economic advancement.

“We can work together so that people not only [in] India, Bangladesh, and also the South Asian people, they can get better life. That is our main focus,” she said.

PM Hasina was welcomed by Darshana Jardosh, Minister of State for Textiles and Railways in New Delhi upon her arrival. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar was also present.

In Bangladesh, her visit is seen as politically significant, as it comes ahead of the general elections next year. Hasina, who has maintained a warm relationship with India since becoming prime minister in 2009, will push to bolster investment and trade, and to make progress on long-standing issues, such as water-sharing of common rivers, observers say.

This is her first visit after both nations' bilateral relations touched their 50th year in 2021. Last year also marked the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh's independence and the 100th birth anniversary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of the nation.

Over the weekend, Bangladesh’s foreign minister told reporters that the two countries are likely to ink seven agreements covering science and technology, water management, and information and broadcasting.

“We hope the visit will be very successful. It will help achieve our goals,” Dr AK Abdul Momen was quoted as saying by The Daily Star newspaper.

Earlier, Hasina laid a wreath and paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat. She received a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Soon after the welcome, the Bangladesh Prime Minister said she feels happy to be in India every time while noting significant ties between New Delhi and Dhaka.

"India is our friend. Whenever I come here, it is a pleasure for me, especially because we always recall the contribution India has made during our liberation war. We have a friendly relationship, we are cooperating with each other," the Bangladesh Premier said today.

The relationship between the neighbours is crucial, with India being Bangladesh’s largest trading partner in South Asia. While China is involved in almost all major infrastructure development schemes in Bangladesh, India is also more eager to take up joint projects.

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Meanwhile, Bangladesh runs a significant trade imbalance with India, an issue that may be discussed during Hasina’s visit. In the fiscal year 2021-22, Bangladesh imported goods worth around $14 billion from India, while exports to its neighbouring country ran lower at $1.8 billion, according to official figures. Authorities and trade bodies often blame tariff and non-tariff barriers, as well as anti-dumping obstacles imposed by India for low exports.

Another priority for Hasina may be to make progress on agreements for water sharing of the Teesta River — a major trans-boundary river that begins in India’s Sikkim, and runs through the north of West Bengal, before flowing into Bangladesh.

For decades, there was no movement on this issue until 2011, when India agreed to share waters during the lean season (between December and March) — but the deal never went through, due to strong opposition from the West Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee.

When Modi visited Bangladesh last year, he reiterated India’s commitment to conclude this agreement, but the impasse has dragged on.

Hasina last visited India in 2019, when she and Modi agreed on the need to boost efforts to facilitate the safe return of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled violence in Myanmar, and have since taken refuge in Bangladesh.

On Monday, the Bangladeshi prime minister met with Indian industrialist Gautam Adani, who recently became the world’s third-richest person, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index. She also spoke with India’s Foreign Minister, and will call on the Vice President and the President while in New Delhi, before leaving for the Indian city of Jaipur on Thursday.


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