India-Bangladesh Relations Strengthen, PM Modi & Counterpart Sheikh Hasina To Sign Several Pacts Today; Know What's Likely To Be On Table

India-Bangladesh Relations Strengthen, PM Modi & Counterpart Sheikh Hasina To Sign Several Pacts Today; Know What's Likely To Be On Table

Weeks after attending PM Modi's oath ceremony, Bangladesh PM Hasina has arrived in India to sign several pacts that further strengthen relations between the countries. The pact includes defence, connectivity, water sharing, and several other aspects.

Manasi KambleUpdated: Saturday, June 22, 2024, 05:53 PM IST
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(L) Bangladesh Prime Minister Hasina Sheikh and (R) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Delhi. | X

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has visited New Delhi for a two-day state visit, marking the first incoming bilateral state visit since India's new government formation following the Lok Sabha elections. This visit follows her attendance at the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. During her stay, she met with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and is scheduled for a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi to discuss a wide range of topics.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Prime Minister Narendra Modi | Screeb Grab

S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister of India and Member of Rajya Sabha, posted on his X (formerly Twitter) about the meeting they had about tying ties in development between both nations.

"Delighted to call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh this evening. Her State visit to India underlines our close and abiding ties. Appreciate her guidance on the further development of our special partnership."

The Pacts To Be Signed Today

The agenda for the bilateral meeting covers crucial areas such as defense cooperation, connectivity and infrastructure development, power and energy partnerships, trade and economic relations, development cooperation, river water sharing, and cultural ties. Sources indicate that discussions may lead to a defense pact and explore possibilities for a financial package. Additionally, talks are underway regarding a rail transit pact between the two nations.

Defense

In terms of defense, the two countries share a 4096.7 km border, the longest land boundary India shares with any neighboring country. They collaborate closely on issues such as police cooperation, anti-corruption measures, and combating illicit activities like drug trafficking and counterfeit currency. Both nations engage in regular bilateral defense interactions, with opportunities for further cooperation in this sector under discussion.

Power And Energy

The power and energy sectors have emerged as crucial pillars of India-Bangladesh relations. Currently, Bangladesh imports 1160 MW of power from India, and initiatives like the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline for high-speed diesel underscore their energy cooperation. Discussions may also include offshore oil exploration projects involving Indian companies.

Connectivity

Connectivity initiatives play a vital role in forging enduring people-centric partnerships between India and Bangladesh. Efforts have included the rehabilitation of pre-1965 rail links, with six such links already operational. The inauguration of the 6th cross-border rail link between Agartala and Akhaura in 2023 was a significant milestone. The Protocol on Inland Waterways Trade and Transit has been operational since 1972, facilitating trade and transit through 10 routes and multiple ports of call, which is also a topic of discussion for further enhancement.

A significant item on Bangladesh's agenda is the long-pending Teesta water-sharing pact. Prime Minister Hasina's itinerary also includes meetings with President Droupadi Murmu and Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar during her visit.

Water Sharing

Recently, India and Bangladesh operationalized agreements allowing India to use Chittagong and Mongla ports for cargo transit between India's Northeast and mainland. Discussions are expected to focus on scaling up transit operations through Bangladesh.

Other Developmental Aspects

India has emerged as a significant development partner for Bangladesh, extending three lines of credit amounting to approximately US$8 billion over the past eight years. These funds have supported infrastructure projects in various sectors, including roads, railways, shipping, and ports. Furthermore, India has funded numerous High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs) aimed at improving facilities like student hostels, academic buildings, and cultural centers in Bangladesh.

Educational Facilities

Cultural and educational exchanges also form an integral part of bilateral relations. Bangladesh is an important ITEC (Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation) partner country, with around 800 participants benefiting annually from ITEC training courses. India has also issued student visas to approximately 1,000 Bangladeshi students this year alone under a self-financing scheme.

Student Visa

Discussions will likely focus on further facilitating visas for students and enhancing people-to-people exchanges, including initiatives like the Bangladesh Youth Delegation program aimed at fostering youth engagement and cultural understanding.

India-Bangladesh Friendship

India and Bangladesh share deep historical, cultural, and linguistic ties, reflected in their robust bilateral relations. These relations are characterized by principles of sovereignty, equality, trust, and mutual understanding, serving as a model for the region and beyond.

India-Bangladesh Strategic Relations

Economically, Bangladesh is India's largest trading partner in South Asia, with approximately USD 2 billion worth of Bangladeshi exports to India in the fiscal year 2022–23. Discussions are expected to focus on achieving a more balanced trade relationship and exploring new investment opportunities.

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