In a historic step towards improving ties, India and Bangladesh exchanged the instruments of ratification of the Land Boundary Agreement on Saturday, promising an end to the “stateless existence” of more than 50,000 people in 162 enclaves on both sides of the border.
Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and his Bangladeshi counterpart, M. Shahidul Haque, signed the documents and exchanged the modalities for implementing the deal. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his Bangladeshi counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee were present. The deal, signed in 1974, entered the process of implementation after Parliament ratified it in May.
More agreements The two countries signed 22 agreements and memorandums of understanding on economic cooperation, trade and investment, security, infrastructure development, education, science and technology, IT and culture.
Earlier, Mr. Modi, Ms. Hasina and Ms. Banerjee flagged off the Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala and the Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati bus services in a gesture of what External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup described as “Connecting lands, binding hearts”. Before official talks at the Bangladeshi Prime Minister’s Office, Mr. Modi and Ms. Hasina had a 40-minute one-on-one meeting. Ms. Hasina thanked the Indian government, people and all political parties for their support. The ratification was “a great diplomatic success”, she said in a joint statement. She commemorated the role of Bangladesh’s founding father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Pranab Mukherjee in reaching the agreement.
India, Bangladesh to open more missions
Bangladesh will open a mission in Guwahati and India will open its in Khulna and Sylhet.
A joint statement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a visit here, and his Bangladeshi counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, on Saturday said “people-to-people contact is the strongest of our links”.
“This again,” Ms. Hasina said, “reflects our growing mutual confidence and shared commitment to expand our relationship.” The two sides agreed to establish special Indian economic zones in Mongla and Bheramara.
Mr. Modi said he was confident that with the support of the State governments, the two countries could reach a fair solution on the sharing of waters of the Teesta and the Feni rivers.
“Our rivers should nurture our relationship, not become a source of discord. Water sharing is, above all, a human issue … It affects life and livelihood on both sides of the border. We should also work together to renew and clean our rivers,” he said.
Mentioning that Mr. Modi’s visit had instilled a new “dynamism and confidence” in the relationship, Ms. Hasina said: “We are committed to forming an equal social structure for the people of both countries.”
The two countries have agreed to foster greater connectivity for the development of South Asia.
“This is truly a historic moment. We are transforming our relationship to a greater height … We understand each other’s concerns and priorities,” Ms. Hasina said.
The Bangladeshi leader noted that the new deals and protocol and the flagging off of bus services were “examples of their commitment to seamless connectivity across the region”.
Mr. Modi hoped that Indian investments in Bangladesh would help bridge the trade gap between the two countries.
He promised that India would help Bangladesh make trade smoother and easier. “People in India admire your nation’s progress despite challenges. We want you to succeed in your Mission 2021 & 2041,” he said.
Saying that he was deeply honoured and touched by “your special gestures for my visit”, he said, “For me, there is the wonderful feeling of visiting a close neighbour.”
He stressed the relationship between Bangladesh and India as of “great importance for us and our region”, and said: “We are successful fellow travellers on the road to development. We stand at a moment of huge opportunity in our relationship. Prime Minister Hasina and I recognise that.”
Regarding the Land Boundary Agreement, he said: “We have resolved a question that has lingered since Independence.”
“Bangladesh and India are not just neighbours, but nations bound by the threads of history, religion, culture, language and kinship & a passion for cricket.”
Gift to Hasina
Mr. Modi presented Ms. Hasina a tapestry from Venkatagiri in Andhra Pradesh, hand-woven in the Jamdani style, the famous traditional sari of Bangladesh, Mr. Modi said on his personal website posting a photograph of the work.