Charm Offensive: Dhaka pulls out all stops to welcome Modi

DHAKA: Flags of India and Bangladesh fluttering in warm and humid Dhaka weather, festive decorations of Mujib centenary celebrations and large-than-life posters of Prime Minister Modi and Sheikh Hasina greeted the Indian leader as he began his first foreign visit during the pandemic to the neighbouring country that has a special place in his heart.

In a special gesture, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, accompanied by her senior ministers, personally received PM Modi at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, welcoming her friend with flowers and warm greetings.

In a special gesture, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Ministers from her cabinet welcomed Prime Minister Modi at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on March 26. Dhaka has pulled out all stops to welcome the Indian leader – a salute of 19 guns and Guard of Honour were accorded to him after arrival.

PM Modi’s second visit to Dhaka – he is coming here after a hiatus of six years – is steeped in an atmosphere of national rejoicing as Bangladesh celebrates Mujib Borsho- the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, 50 years of Bangladesh’s war of liberation and the two countries celebrate 50 years of the establishment of diplomatic ties.

Within hours of arriving in Dhaka, PM Modi engaged with a wide spectrum of civil society and the political establishment, which included leading figures of the political opposition and youth.

PM Modi interacted with opposition leaders from various political parties of Bangladesh and met political leaders from 14 Party Alliance along with the Convener to seek their suggestions for taking India-Bangladesh ties to new heights.

Ahead of his bilateral talks with Sheikh Hasina on March 27, Mr Modi discussed a wide gamut of issues with Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr A.K. Abdul Momen. “Both the Leaders reflected on deepening the fraternal ties and strengthening the all-encompassing partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust and understanding that transcends a strategic partnership between the two countries,” said India’s external affairs ministry in a statement.

PM Modi’s choice of Bangladesh as his first overseas destination after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic underscores the importance he places on nurturing this mutually enriching and empowering partnership.

The March 26-27 visit of PM Modi celebrates what Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla terms as a “sonar adhyay” (golden chapter) in the annals of India-Bangladesh relations.

“This is a very special visit. Mr. Modi has come to pay respect to our Father of the Nation and to participate in triple celebrations,” Dr Gowher Rizvi, International Affairs Adviser to Bangladesh Prime Minister, told India Writes Network in Dhaka.

“It’s a huge honour for PM Modi to be invited as Guest of Honour at the triple celebrations of Bangladesh. The joint celebrations highlight special friendship and bond that has developed between India and Bangladesh,” Veena Sikri, a former envoy of India to Bangladesh, told India Writes Network in Delhi.

Upscaling economic relations and promoting connectivity and infrastructure projects with a view to accelerating development of India’s Northeast states will among important outcomes of PM Modi’s two-day visit to Dhaka.

Ahead of the visit, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said that a number of announcements on bolstering cooperation in areas such as health, railway connectivity, border development and start-ups are expected to be made during the visit.

(Manish Chand is CEO of India Writes Network and India and the World magazine. He is currently in Dhaka to report on and analyse Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh. Follow him on @scepticcryptic @IndiaWritesTGII)