India and Bangladesh are set to enter a new phase of growth and expansion after a temporary hiatus in their cooperation due to Covid. In a major boost to their ties, both sides have signed seven key MoUs ranging areas from hydrocarbon, community development, waste management, wildlife, agriculture, and museums following a virtual summit of the leaders of two countries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina held a comprehensive discussion on all aspects of bilateral relations during a virtual summit on December 17 and expressed satisfaction on the progress made, the joint statement issued after the meeting said. “They emphasized that relations between Bangladesh and India are based on fraternal ties and reflective of an all-encompassing partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust, and understanding that transcends a strategic partnership,” it said.
The two leaders also exchanged views on regional and international issues and vowed to uphold and protect the cherished values of democracy and equality in line with the aspirations of the people of the two countries. PM Modi has accepted Prime MinisterSheikh Hasina’sinvitation to visit Bangladesh in March 2021 to join the celebrations on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s Independence and 50 years of Bangladesh-India diplomatic relations.
Both sides exchanged views on the pandemic situation in their respective countries and expressed satisfaction at the sustained engagement between the two countries that has been maintained during this crisis. Reiterating the highest priority India attaches to Bangladesh under India’s Neighborhood First Policy, Prime Minister Modi assured that vaccines would be made available to Bangladesh as and when produced in India. India also offered collaboration in therapeutics and partnership in vaccine production. Bangladesh appreciated India’s conducting capacity building courses for medical professionals in the Bangla language.
The Bangladeshi PM deeply appreciated the warm gesture of India in organizing various events on the occasion of the ongoing ‘Mujib Borsho’. The two Prime Ministers jointly unveiled a commemorative postal stamp issued by the Government of India on the occasion. PM Modi also thanked the Government of Bangladesh for issuing a stamp in honor of Mahatma Gandhi on the occasion of Gandhiji’s 150th birth anniversary celebrations earlier in September 2020. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina requested the Indian side to consider Bangladesh’s proposal to name the road from Mujib Nagar to Nodia on the Bangladesh-India border as “ShadhinotaShorok” commemorating the historic significance of the road during Bangladesh’s Liberation War.
Both sides agreed to hold an early meeting of the Joint Boundary Conference to prepare a new set of strip maps along the stretch of Icchamati, Kalindi, Raimongol, and the Hariabhanga rivers to finalize the delineation of the boundaries as fixed. It was agreed to carry out necessary work to convert the International Boundary along Kuhsiyarariver into a fixed boundary, the release said. Both leaders agreed to facilitate the completion of border fencing at all pending sectors at the international border between the two countries at the earliest beginning from the Tripura (India)- Bangladesh sector. The leaders stressed the full implementation of the ongoing Coordinated Border Management Plan. Noting that Bangladesh and India were prone to frequent natural disasters, the two leaders directed officials on both sides to expeditiously conclude the MoU in the area of disaster management cooperation.
Recognizing that terrorism remains a threat to global peace and security, both sides reiterated their strong commitment to eliminating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Both sides emphasized simplifying people to people movement between the two countries. Bangladesh requested for early implementation of India’s commitment to remove remaining restrictions on entry/exit from land ports in India for Bangladeshis traveling on valid documents in a phased manner, beginning with checkpoints at Akhaura (Tripura) and Ghojadanga (West Bengal).
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina appreciated the Duty-Free and Quota Free access given to Bangladeshi exports to India under SAFTA since 2011. Both Prime Ministers emphasized addressing issues of non-tariff barriers and trade facilitation including port restrictions, procedural bottlenecks, and quarantine restrictions so that both countries can take full advantage of SAFTA flexibility. Both the leaders commended trade and railway officials for the cooperation shown in maintaining uninterrupted supply chains during COVID-19, including facilitating bilateral trade through existing rail routes, using side-door container and parcel trains. Recognizing the immense potential of bilateral economic and commercial ties, both Prime Ministers directed the officials to expeditiously conclude the ongoing joint study on the prospects of entering into a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
The two leaders noted with satisfaction the continued progress made towards the restoration of pre-1965 railway linkages between the two nations. They jointly inaugurated the newly restored railway link between Haldibari (India) and Chilahati (Bangladesh) and noted that this rail link will further strengthen trade and people to people ties between the two sides. Both leaders agreed to an early operationalization of the BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement through the expeditious signing of the Enabling MoU for Bangladesh, India, and Nepal to commence the movement of goods and passengers, with provision for Bhutan to join at a later date.
Bangladesh Prime Minister expressed keen interest in the ongoing India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway project and sought the support of India for enabling Bangladesh to connect with this project to enhance connectivity between the regions of South and Southeast Asia. In the same spirit, the Indian side requested Bangladesh to allow connectivity from West Bengal (Hilli) to Meghalaya (Mahendraganj) via Bangladesh. Besides connectivity, they also discussed water, power, and energy cooperation as well as regional and global issues.
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