The India visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been significant for bilateral political and diplomatic reasons. The tour was initially planned as an opportunity to showcase the growing investment potential of the country at the World Economic Forum held in Delhi last week, however official agreements and the joint statement issued showed both sides took certain concrete steps during the visit.
Beginning his welcome address for the Bangladeshi leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the goal of the partnership of the two countries is to “ensure the development of every citizen” of India and Bangladesh. In this regard he pointed out that in the last one year Dhaka and Delhi have launched nine projects and added three more to the list during the latest visit of Prime Minister Hasina.
Both sides signed agreements on the supply of bulk LPG, vocational skills and setting up of the Vivekananda Bhavan in Dhaka’s Ramakrishna Mission. The supply of bulk LPG from Bangladesh to India is aimed at helping the LPG scenario in the North-eastern Indian states. Another project that will help Bangladesh is the Bangladesh-India Professional Skill Development Institute that will support the manpower pool of Bangladesh.
Both sides also signed seven agreements that included coastal surveillance, use of Chattogram (Chittagong) and Mongla ports by Indian vessels, and withdrawal of 1.82 cusec of water from Feni River by India to supply drinking water for Sabroom town of Tripura. The agreement on Feni’s water for Tripura will ensure steady water supply for the border town and also resolve an issue that had proved to be controversial in recent months.
Explaining the coastal surveillance, government sources said that the agreement will ultimately allow India to place surveillance radar units and infrastructure along the common coast line that will help both sides to monitor the shared coast better. It was learnt that approximately twenty surveillance units may come up finally for better management and security of the coastline.
During her presentation at the WEF, Sheikh Hasina described Bangladesh as a secular progressive country that is dealing with the enormous Rohingya refugee crisis as it has been hosting more than a million Rohingya from Myanmar since August-September 2017. She urged India to play a more proactive role to ensure early repatriation of the Rohingya community to the Rakhine province of Myanmar. Around 1.1 million Rohingya have been living in the refugee camps in the Chittagong hills. India committed to supply the fifth tranche of the annual package of Rs. 120 crore for helping the Rohingya. India has recently constructed a re-settlement colony for the Rohingya in Rakhine and is currently considering several more projects that will ultimately help in the resettlement of the Rohingya. Sheikh Hasina described her handling of the Rohingya issue as a sign of her government’s commitment to find a solution to the issue in a peaceful manner. New Delhi has sanctioned Rs 10 crore for the displaced Buddhist Arakanese community of Myanmar who are also being hosted by Bangladesh.
Bangladeshi is expected to take up the future of the Rohingya at the upcoming ASEAN summit. Bangladesh also raised the ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) process of Assam and was told by Prime Minister Modi that NRC is a “court mandated ongoing process” and the process is yet to be completed. Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haq said that Bangladesh will watch the situation regarding NRC and added, “It is an internal matter of India.
Prime Minister Hasina reiterated that her government remains committed to “zero tolerance” of terrorism and corruption and urged for South Asian countries to move beyond majority-minority mind-set. The visit, however, could not make any progress on the Teesta water agreement which remains much talked about in Bangladesh.
At the end of the bilateral discussion, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina invited Prime Minister Modi to visit Dhaka for the birth centenary celebrations of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 2020. India accepted the invitation for the Prime Ministerial visit.
Scrip-:Kallol Bhattacherjee, Special Correspondent, The HINDU