Bangladesh, India discuss celebration of Liberation War, Rohingya issue

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with his Bangladesh counterpart A.K. Abdul Momen. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

India and Bangladesh on Tuesday resolved to jointly celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1971 Liberation War. The decision was part of the discussion during the 6th Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) meeting held on Tuesday. The meeting was led by External Affairs Minister Jaishankar and his Bangladesh counterpart A.. Abdul Momen and the two sides discussed a number of issues including border killings and the sharing of the Teesta waters.

“Both countries decided to jointly celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Liberation War and the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in India, Bangladesh and in select third countries through their respective Missions,” a Joint Statement said.

The two countries are observing the centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, father of the nation of Bangladesh, in 2020 which has been declared as the “Mujib year” or “Mujib borsho”. Renovation of the historic Mujibnagar-Kolkata road and establishment of a permanent immigration check post at Mujibnagar are expected to be part of the celebrations. It was at Mujibnagar that a government in exile of Bangladesh was set up on April 10, 1971. The two sides also planned for holding ceremonial military parades on December 16 to honour the victims of the war of 1971.

The Joint Statement acknowledged Dhaka’s concern on the continued killing of nationals by the Border Security Force, Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen said during the 6th Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) meeting on Tuesday. Bangladesh raised a number of irritants in bilateral ties during the exchange with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and both sides agreed to hold the long-delayed meeting of the Joint Rivers Commission.

“The Bangladesh side highlighted that the entire nation is deeply concerned at the rise in killings of Bangladeshi nationals by Indian border forces. The Indian side agreed that the loss of civilian lives is a matter of concern. Both sides urged the concerned border forces to enhance coordinated measures to bring them down to zero,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh said.

The statement is important as it comes in the backdrop of several protest rallies over the past few months in Bangladesh that have mobilised mass opinion against the incidents. Though a Joint Statement was issued a bit later in Delhi, Dhaka issued a separate statement enumerating the contentious points.

The Joint Statement acknowledged Dhaka’s concern and suggested measures to bring down the border incidents to zero. The Indian side requested for Single Row Fencing in vulnerable patches “along the border within 150 yards that will help contain crimes”. According to human rights body Odhikar, at least 25 Bangladesh nationals were killed and dozens injured between January and June this year in firing from the BSF.

In a social media message, Mr. Jaishankar described Tuesday’s discussion as “comprehensive” and announced that a virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina will be held in December 2020. The 5th Joint Consultative Commission meeting was held here in February 2019. This was Dhaka’s turn to host the JCC but due to the pandemic the meeting was held in virtual format.

Tuesday’s meeting was the first exclusively Foreign Ministers-led interaction covering the entire gamut of relationship held after the pandemic season began in March. The meeting was announced during the August 18-19 visit to Dhaka by Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla. Some of the issues raised by Bangladesh on Tuesday were discussed during the meeting of Mr. Shringla with his counterpart Masud Bin Momen in Dhaka.

Bangladesh stressed on a lasting solution to the Rohingya refugee crisis and urged India — a newly elected non-permanent member — to take up the issue at the UN Security Council to help in the “early repatriation” of the community to Myanmar in a safe and sustainable manner. The Joint Statement however hinted at Myanmar’s sensitivity as it avoided the term “Rohingya” and instead referred to the “displaced persons from the Rakhine State of Myanmar”. It expressed India’s willingness to work on protecting “rights of migrants”.

Dr. Momen raised the problem caused by India declaring a ban on export of onions and urged Mr. Jaishankar to look into the export of essential commodities as such bans, impact “the domestic market of Bangladesh”.

Bangladesh “underscored the necessity of early resolution of the Teesta water sharing and early resolution of agreements on sharing of all common rivers”. The two teams agreed to hold the long delayed Joint Rivers Commission meeting at the ministerial level. Mr .Momen also urged India for reciprocal easing of visa and land border restrictions for nationals of Bangladesh, especially for the medical patients and students enrolled in Indian educational institutions.

Dhaka stated that “various non-tariff barriers and lack of adequate trade facilitation is impeding flow of Bangladeshi products into India, particularly the northeast”. Mr. Momen asked his counterpart to open up India to exports from Bangladesh. The suggestion is significant as China has offered to waive 97% tariff on 5,161 items from Bangladesh. The Indian side in response, “assured expeditious facilitation of such proposals”. Mr. Jaishankar in his opening remarks said Bangladesh is working towards establishment of Indian Economic Zones in Mongla and Mirsarai ports.

Both sides also discussed a joint strategy to fight the pandemic and explore “collaboration in the health sector especially in terms of supply, delivery, distribution and co-production of COVID-19 vaccine”. Mr. Momen appreciated India’s promise of providing the vaccine on a priority basis to Dhaka.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 12:57:25 PM |

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