A visit filled with aspiration

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ongoing visit to Bangladesh has generated a flurry of hope on both sides of the border.

Foreign minister AH Mahmud Ali feels that this visit is extremely significant where multifaceted relations between Bangladesh and India are concerned.

At a press conference in Delhi too, Indian foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said, this visit of Narendra Modi is a historic one in all senses. The land boundary agreement has opened new vistas of cooperation and goodwill.

The Indian prime minister is leading an 81-member delegation. The delegation includes West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, India’s national security advisor Ajit Duval and foreign secretary S Jaishankar.

However, prior to Modi’s visit it was made clear that the Teesta deal would not be signed this time.

Bangladesh wants India to commit to signing an agreement with India for sharing the waters of common rivers. Last moment negotiations are on in this regard.

Dhaka has relied on Modi’s word about the land boundary agreement and wants to do the same concerning Teesta. Diplomatic sources in Dhaka have told media, during Modi’s two-day visit, Bangladesh would stress on water sharing management of common rivers and also the connectivity issue.

modi-hasinaAlongside communications, India will place priority on cooperation for security and anti-terrorism. After the militant attack in India’s northeastern Manipur state, needless to say India will keep on seeking Bangladesh’s cooperation against terrorism.

Two specialised economic zones will be required to expand economic and business relations between the two countries.

India will provide Bangladesh with US$2 billion loan assistance for the communications infrastructure and social sectors.

These issues are expected to be announced in a joint statement after the Sheikh Hasina-Modi meeting. While the meeting is set to end on Saturday evening at the prime minister’s office, the joint statement would be declared on Sunday.

The joint statement may include over 60 points.

India has approved of the land boundary agreement 41 years after it was ratified by Bangladesh. The bill was passed by the Indian parliament last month. The protocol was signed in 2011 by the Manmohan Singh government but was opposed by BJP and other opposition parties at the time. Coming to power, the BJP government passed with the bill within a year. This time too there was much deliberation within BJP over passage of the bill. The Assam state BJP was opposed to the agreement. Finally the bill went through and Bangladesh is happy with just this.

The long unresolved issue of Teesta will not be discussed during this meeting. Whether this is deemed a failure, foreign minister AH Mahmud Ali said he did not see this as a failure. He told journalists at his office on Friday morning, “We are importing 500 MW power from India and will import another 600 MW shortly. So it is not true that we are not getting anything. We have to develop the mentality of receiving.”

Mahmud Ali said nothing happens overnight. He said, the land boundary problem was resolved after 41 years. This was a historic event. There is no call to overlook all this and worry about what has not been accomplished. A lot of diplomatic moves do not take place openly. Talks on Teesta are also going on behind the scenes.

After the talks between the two prime ministers, about 20 agreements, memoranda, protocols and others understandings will be signed. These include renewal of the bilateral trade agreement, coastal vessels movement agreement, inland river transit and trade protocol, BSTI and BIS cooperation agreement for quality control, Dhaka-Shillong-Gauhati bus service agreement and protocol, Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala bus service agreement and protocol, MOU for cooperation between Bangladesh and India’s coast guards, MOU against human trafficking, MOU for economic cooperation in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, MOU between BSNL and BSCCL for internet international bandwidth lease in Akhaura, understanding for Life Insurance Corporation to begin operations in Bangladesh, and cultural exchange programmes.

Courtesy: Prothom Alo