India’s transforming relations with Bangladesh are set to scale new heights during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s four-day visit to India which will see the two countries sign over 20 pacts, including a landmark agreement on defence cooperation which will bring the two countries into a tighter strategic embrace.
Sheikh Hasina touches down in New Delhi to a red carpet welcome on April 7 for a four-day visit, her first trip to India after a hiatus of more than seven years. India is pulling out all stops to make the visit a big success and project it as a model of its reinvigorated “Neighbours First” policy. In a difficult neighbourhood, India’s blossoming relations with Bangladesh is an unfolding good news story and shows what can be achieved in neighbourly relations with political will and mutual trust.
Briefing the Indian media ahead of Sheikh Hasina’s visit, Sripria Renganathan, Joint Secretary in charge of Bangladesh and Myanmar in India’s external affairs ministry, said in New Delhi that the two countries will sign a five-year framework agreement on defence cooperation for supply, renewal and research and development and a separate MoU under which concessional loan will be earmarked for Bangladesh to source defence equipment from India.
“We do intend to sign two MoUs on defence: one a framework for cooperation for a few years for supply and research and development and the second for Bangladesh to source defence equipment from India under which a line of credit will be earmarked,” she said in response to a question. Diplomatic sources said the Line of Credit for sourcing of defence equipment will be around $500 million.
The big takeaway of Sheikh Hasina’s visit will be a marked upswing in development cooperation, with India looking to announce a massive package of LOCs, which could be in range of $3-5 billion. Ms Renganathan said that India would extend “another substantial concessional loan” to Bangladesh, but did not specify the amount. This will be the third Line of Credit by India to Bangladesh, after the first two LoCs amounting to $1 billion and $2 billion were announced in 2011 and 2015. With the new LOC, which is expected to be announced after talks between Sheikh Hasina and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on April 8, Bangladesh would become the top recipient of India’s developmental assistance.
Bangladesh and India are likely to sign over 20 agreements and memoranda of understanding in diverse areas, including Information and Communication Technology, Shipping, Mass Media, Science and Technology, trade and investment and energy as well the management of the highly-porous border between the two countries.
Counter-terrorism and radicalization of youth, the problems faced by India and Bangladesh, are also expected to dominate the agenda during bilateral talks between Sheikh Hasina and Modi. “All aspects of our security cooperation with Bangladesh are excellent,” said Ms Renganathan.
The security cooperation between the two countries was upgraded after the deadly terror attack on a popular café in Gulshan locality of Dhaka in July last year. To counter radicalisation, the two countries will sign a pact on cooperation on cyber security.
Besides the launch of new train and bus services, another important outcome will be the signing of a pact on civil nuclear cooperation, which will focus on India’s assistance in capacity building and nuclear safety issues.
During her visit, Sheikh Hasina will hold one-on-one talks with Mr Modi before delegation-level meeting on April 8 after which the two leaders will also meet over lunch. She will also call on Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari. Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will call on Hasina. The Bangladeshi leader will also offer prayers at the sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishi’s shrine in Ajmer on April 9 and return to Delhi to wrap up her visit by interacting with captains of Indian businesses and industry.
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