Aug 26: Foreign Secretary Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla (FS) visited Bangladesh on 18-19 August 2020. During his visit, he called on the Prime Minister of Bangladesh H.E. Sheikh Hasina, on 18 August. Discussions during the meeting centered on the importance of the 100th birth anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 2020 and the 50 years of the liberation of Bangladesh and the establishment of diplomatic ties between India and Bangladesh in 2021. India plans to issue a commemorative stamp on Bangabandhu during Mujib Barsho. The two countries also propose to hold joint events on the occasion. PM Modi had paid tributes to Bangabandhu through a video message in the inaugural Mujib Borsho celebrations in March.
Both sides discussed the COVID-19 situation. India has provided COVID related assistance to Bangladesh and has also been organizing capacity building courses for Bangladesh medical personnel following the video conference of the leaders of SAARC countries and the creation of the SAARC Emergency Response Fund for COVID-19. Bangladesh has committed US$ 1.5 million to the fund. FS informed Prime Minister Hasina about India’s efforts towards COVID-19 vaccine development and distribution. Both sides agreed to continue their discussions in the area of vaccines and therapeutics.
India’s developmental assistance in Bangladesh as also the projects in the area of connectivity and power were discussed. Several of these projects, including the Rampal Maitree Power Plant, India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline, and rail links between Akhaura-Agartala and Chilahati-Haldibari and Khulna-Mongla rail line are expected to get completed next year. It was proposed that the next meeting of the Joint Consultative Commission at the level of the Foreign Ministers should be convened shortly to review the entire gamut of bilateral relationship including the projects. It was also proposed that a high level monitoring mechanism be set up to regularly review the progress of the ongoing projects.
India’s proposal to launch a travel air bubble between the two countries opening limited flights for official, business and medical travellers was appreciated by the Bangladesh side.
There were discussions relating to the cooperation in the areas of security, including fencing and joint efforts to prevent trans-border crimes. The issue of safe repatriation of internally displaced persons from the Rakhine state also came up for discussion.
Foreign Secretary also met Bangladesh Foreign Secretary, Mr Masud Bin Momen and comprehensively discussed all issues of bilateral interest. Foreign Secretary also invited the Bangladesh Foreign Secretary to visit India at his earliest convenience.
In the last few years, India and Bangladesh have amicably resolved complex issues including the land and maritime borders, and have taken several initiatives to boost connectivity and trade, including commencement of movement of Indian cargo from Agartala to Kolkata via Chattogram, expansion of the scope of the Protocol that governs trade and transit on inland waterways, India’s gifting of 10 locomotives to Bangladesh, and introduction of parcel and container train services between the two countries.
This visit of Foreign Secretary was useful in discussing specific initiatives in several key areas of mutual interest. It also reflects the priority that India accords to Bangladesh as part of its Neighbourhood First policy. The top leadership of the two countries has remained in regular touch which has helped sustain the momentum in our excellent bilateral ties.