Modi-Hasina summit: India moves to expand trade

Modi-Hasina summit: India moves to expand trade and economic engagement with Bangladesh

India offered Bangladesh collaboration in therapeutics and partnership in production of Covid-19 vaccine

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina during the India-Bangladesh virtual bilateral summit, in New Delhi, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. Credit: PIB/PTI

India on Thursday moved to expand connectivity infrastructure and development partnership with Bangladesh as well as to step up bilateral trade and economic engagements – in an apparent bid to stop the neighbouring country from drifting towards China.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart in Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, formally restored a defunct rail-link between Haldibari in West Bengal and Chilahati in the neighbouring country.

The two governments also inked seven pacts on the sideline of a virtual summit between the leaders. The pacts included one on cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector and another for India’s support for implementation of community development projects in Bangladesh.

A bilateral protocol on transboundary elephant conservation and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in agriculture were also inked on the sideline of the virtual summit between the two leaders.

India offered Bangladesh collaboration in therapeutics and partnership in production of Covid-19 vaccine.

New Delhi’s move to reach out to Dhaka and consolidate bilateral development and connectivity cooperation amid China’s renewed bid to expand its geo-political influence in the neighbourhood of India, including in Bangladesh.

The two Prime Ministers stressed on “importance of safe, speedy and sustainable return” of the Rohingyas from the refugee camps in Bangladesh to Myanmar.

Modi lauded the generosity of Bangladesh in sheltering and providing humanitarian assistance to the 1.1 million “forcibly displaced persons” from the Rakhine State of Myanmar. Hasina expressed “Bangladesh’s expectation to see India assist in the repatriation of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas back to Myanmar”, according to a joint statement issued after the virtual summit between the two leaders.

New Delhi invited Bangladesh Government to join the New Development Bank launched by the BRICS – a bloc comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Dhaka expressed keen interest in the ongoing India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway project and sought support of New Delhi for enabling Bangladesh to connect with this project with a view to enhance connectivity between the regions of South and South East Asia. New Delhi also requested Dhaka to allow connectivity from West Bengal (Hilli) to Meghalaya (Mahendraganj) via Bangladesh.

Hasina once again nudged Modi to convince West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to lift her objection to the proposed interim agreement for sharing of the waters of the common river Teesta. Though the agreement was finalized in 2011, it could not be signed due to objections from the West Bengal Government. Modi reassured Bangladesh Prime Minister of continued efforts of the Government of India to clear the hurdles for signing of the agreement.

They underscored the need for early conclusion of Framework of Interim Agreement on sharing of waters of six other common rivers, namely, Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.