Bangladesh major pillar of ‘neighbourhood first’ policy, says PM Modi

Sheikh Hasina says many Indian nationals were working in Bangladesh and enhancing bilateral economic ties.

Updated - December 17, 2020 05:54 pm IST

Published - December 17, 2020 01:00 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the India-Bangladesh virtual summit with PM Sheikh Hasina on Thursday, December 17, 2020.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the India-Bangladesh virtual summit with PM Sheikh Hasina on Thursday, December 17, 2020.

Bangladesh is a major pillar of India’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the inauguration of a summit level talks held virtually on Thursday.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said many Indian nationals were working in Bangladesh and enhancing bilateral economic ties.

Launch rail link

The two leaders remotely launched the Chilahati (Bangladesh)-Haldibari (West Bengal) rail link, which is the fifth such link between the two countries.

“Bangladesh is a major pillar of our ‘neighbourhood first’ policy and it has been a special priority for me from Day 1 to strengthen our relations with Bangladesh. Today I pay my respect to the martyrs of our both sides who sacrificed their lives during the 1971 war, when the anti-liberation forces were defeated by us”, said Mr. Modi in Hindi. He greeted Bangladesh on the occasion of centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Biopic on Bangabandhu

A joint statement issued at the end of the summit said that the filming of a biopic on Bangabandhu would begin under the direction of Shyam Benegal in January 2021.

The document also pledged to name the road from Mujib Nagar to West Bengal’s Nadia as “Shadhinota Shorok”.

It was in Mujib Nagar that a government in exile was formed in 1971.

Mr. Modi accepted an invitation from Dhaka to be present at the 50th anniversary of independence of Bangladesh in March.

He reiterated that removal of obstacles to land connectivity and growing trade had changed the texture of India-Bangladesh relationship.

The Chilahati-Haldibari rail link was last operational in 1965. Upgrade of the old lines were carried out before the inauguration.

Seven agreements

The two sides also concluded seven agreements covering areas such as hydrocarbon, High Impact Community Development Projects, elephant conservation, solid waste management, agriculture, and terms of reference of the India-Bangladesh CEOs forum. A pact between the National Museum of India and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Museum in Dhaka was also declared.

Ms. Hasina said, “Our relations have embarked on a landmark moment. Bangladesh has stepped into the 50th year of its independence. Our relations is also stepping into the 50th year. We have chalked out programmes for the entire coming year that will jointly mark our collaboration in the Liberation War”. She pointed out that despite the pandemic, both sides had worked together to ensure connectivity and trade remain uninterrupted.

Both sides agreed to hold an early meeting of the Joint Boundary Conference to prepare a new set of strip maps along the stretch of the Icchamati, Kalindi, Raimongol and Hariabhanga rivers from Main Pillar 1 to Land Boundary terminus. This exercise will help in fixing the international boundary on that stretch.

‘Fixed border’

The joint statement declared that required work would commence to convert the International Boundary along the Kushiyara river into a “fixed border”.

In response to Prime Minister Hasina's remarks on the Teesta water-sharing agreement, Mr. Modi expressed India’s “sincere commitment” to implementing the interim agreement, which is yet to be signed.

Bangladesh also expressed a desire to join the trilateral highway project that is being worked out among India, Thailand and Myanmar.

Ms. Hasina expressed satisfaction over the interconnection of the economies of both nations. “A good number of Indians are employed in service and manufacturing sector in Bangladesh and are remittance earners for India. On the other hand, India receives its highest number of tourists and medical patients from Bangladesh. I believe both our countries can move up the global and regional value chain further integrating our economies and taking advantage of our synergies.”

Rohingya refugees’ repatriation

She urged India to assist in the speedy repatriation of the Rohingya refugees who are currently staying in the Kutupalong refugee settlement colony in Cox’s Bazar.

The joint statement, however, did not use the term “Rohingya” and used instead “Displaced persons from the Rakhine state of Myanmar” to refer to the community.

“Prime Minister Modi appreciated the generosity of Bangladesh in sheltering and providing humanitarian assistance to 1.1 million forcibly displaced persons from the Rakhine State of Myanmar”, it declared.

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