Hasina visits India as both sides stress the need for strengthening economic cooperation amid Russia-Ukraine war and the coronavirus pandemic
Published : 7 Sept 2022, 02:59 AM
Updated : 7 Sept 2022, 02:59 AM
Bangladesh and India have discussed strengthening energy cooperation to tackle the global crisis created by the Russia-Ukraine war and the coronavirus pandemic.
They also agreed to strengthen trade in a bilateral meeting led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Tuesday.
The two neighbours signed a deal on sharing the water of the Kushiyara river, but no headway was made in the signing of a similar deal on the Teesta river.
Hasina, on the second day of the four-day India visit, held a one-on-one meeting with Modi. She also met Indian President Droupadi Murmu and Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam said Hasina made headway on the issue of fuel oil cooperation in her meeting with Modi, and Bangladeshi ministries and departments will discuss buying diesel from India.
He said India had “political goodwill” to export fuel oil to Bangladesh. Hasina also proposed India ship “secured volumes or quantities” of goods Bangladesh is running short of.
The issue involving anti-dumping duty on Bangladeshi jute products received attention as well.
“Although we were told that exports of Indian and Bangladeshi jute have increased despite [the enforcement], Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina raised the matter prominently and [Modi] instructed his office and other departments to swiftly resolve the issue and discuss its settlement with us, if needed.”
Modi insisted that India’s development alone will “never be sustainable” if the people of neighbours like Bangladesh do not develop economically.
“If that is the spirit, hopefully, nothing will be a problem and no issues will stay pending for long,” Shahriar quoted Hasina as saying.
Shahriar also said Bangladesh was eager to export goods to India’s North East, according to the Indian agency Asian News International.
“We’re very happy with the outcomes so far. We are reaching out to businesses. We find that North East is a potential market. They have demand and due to natural reasons they would like Bangladesh as their source,” Shahriar said, according to an ANI Twitter post.
Hasina and Modi’s hope for economic prosperity and stability was reflected during a joint news briefing after the talks.
Hasina said they discussed issues related to connectivity, trade and commerce, investment, water resources management, security, border and lines of credit.
Modi said Bangladesh and India decided to extend cooperation in IT, space technology and nuclear energy.
Energy, trade take centre stage as Hasina meets Modi in Delhi
Modi also said his country will start talks on a comprehensive economic partnership agreement, or CEPA, with Bangladesh, aiming to finalise it when the South Asian nation graduates to become a developing country by 2026.
“Across Asia, India is the biggest market for exports from Bangladesh. To further expedite this progress, we will soon initiate discussions on a bilateral economic comprehensive partnership agreement,” he added.
DEALS AND PROJECTS
Dhaka and New Delhi signed seven memoranda of understanding, or MoUs, after the talks.
The MoUs cover a wide range of topics. The first allows Bangladesh to withdraw 153 cusecs of water from the Kushiyara River at Rahimpur.
The second promises scientific cooperation between the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, India and the Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
The third is between the National Judicial Academy, Bhopal, India and the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.
The fourth and fifth are between the Ministry of Railways, India and Bangladesh Railway on training for Bangladesh personnel and IT solutions.The sixth is between Prasar Bharti and Bangladesh Television, the two state-run broadcasters of the neighbouring countries.
The seventh and final promises cooperation on space technology.
The two premiers jointly unveiled Unit-I of the 1,320 MW Maitree Super Thermal Power Project in Rampal and inaugurated the 5.13-km long Rupsha rail bridge, part of the Khulna-Mongla Port broad gauge rail project.
Hasina sounded optimistic that the Teesta river water-sharing deal and other unresolved issues between Bangladesh and India will be settled soon.
“India is the closest and most important neighbour of Bangladesh. The two countries have resolved many outstanding issues and we hope that all outstanding issues, including the Teesta water-sharing treaty, will be concluded at an early date,” she said after the meeting with Modi.
In September 2011, Bangladesh and India officially agreed to stream water from the Teesta river into both countries before then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s trip to Dhaka.
The deal was supposed to be penned during Manmohan’s visit but it was stalled due to objections from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has stuck to her position even after Modi’s party BJP formed government.
Shahriar said they discussed the issue in the bilateral meeting and “we are still assured that India will deliver on the promise even if delayed”.
They also discussed a possible date for the next Joint River Commission ministerial-level meeting, Shahriar said.
“Both parties have reached consensus on retaining the momentum we’ve gained [on the issue].”