Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India: Defence pact, n-energy, development aid top agenda

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.
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.

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