Modi to sign key agreements on Dhaka visit

Several key agreements, including one on Teesta water sharing, bus services between India and Bangladesh, and a new $2 billion line of credit are expected to be announced when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Dhaka on a two-day trip beginning June 6.

Announcing the visit, the Ministry of External Affairs said: “This visit, Prime Minister Modi’s first to Bangladesh, reflects the importance attached by India to the bilateral relationship.” In a simultaneous announcement in Dhaka, the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry added that the government “strongly hopes that the visit will further strengthen the [existing] excellent bilateral relations with India.”

Bilateral talks

Mr. Modi will land on June 6 morning, with a series of engagements over two days, including bilateral talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and a call on President Mohammad Abdul Hamid. Both Prime Ministers are expected to flag off a Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala bus service, even as they announce other services from Dhaka to Guwahati, Agartala and Shillong.

In keeping with his visits abroad and in the neighbourhood, Mr. Modi is expected to give a public address at Dhaka University, which has historical importance from Bangladesh’s 1971 liberation war.

While officials would not confirm if India would raise the contentious issue of violence against Hindu minorities, Mr. Modi is expected to visit the famous 12th century Dhakeshwari Temple. During her visit to Dhaka in June, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had addressed devotees at the same temple. Details of the Prime Minister’s visit and agenda for bilateral talks are likely to be finalised after Bangladesh High Commissioner Syed Muazzem Ali meets Mr. Modi and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval this week.

Sources in both the Bangladeshi Foreign and Finance Ministries told The Hindu that India is expected to offer Bangladesh $2 billion in fresh loans for use in road, rail and port connectivity projects during the Prime Minister’s visit.

Bangladesh has already identified 15 projects in consultation with the Indian government in which the funds can be used.

Way clear for LBA

The tone for Mr. Modi’s visit was set earlier this month, after the NDA government cleared the constitutional amendment bill to ratify the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) with a unanimous vote in Parliament. On Tuesday, the Bangladesh cabinet also ratified the protocol for the LBA, clearing the way for Mr. Modi and Ms. Hasina to sign the historic agreement that will resolve the border issue that has been pending between India and Bangladesh for 40 years with an exchange of 162 enclaves — 111 from India and 51 from Bangladesh .

At an Indo-Bangladesh seminar held in Delhi last week, Bangladesh’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam said: "After this [the Land Boundary Agreement], we expect the Teesta water sharing issue to be resolved.” Echoing the positive sentiments, Mr. Doval had told the same conference that Bangladesh was “India’s most important neighbour”.

Teesta issue

Sources say the government is confident it can also resolve the Teesta issue after the main roadblocks posed by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee were removed during her visit to Dhaka in February this year. The Centre has also discussed a full package of benefits for West Bengal, including a rehabilitation package for those displaced by the LBA and an irrigation package to compensate for the water sharing agreement.

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Printable version | Aug 8, 2020 12:38:38 AM |

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