NEW DELHI: India and Bangladesh will hold their first virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina likely in December, it was proposed during a joint consultative commission (JCC) meeting between S Jaishankar and his Bangladesh counterpart, AK Abdul Momen.
Reassuring Bangladesh, Jaishankar, in his opening remarks said, India was “committed” to sharing Teesta waters, but until political consensus was reached, he offered to share waters on six other rivers. A joint statement issued after the meeting pushed for “early conclusion of framework of interim agreement on sharing of waters of six other joint rivers, namely, Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.” Jaishankar said India had already shared data on this.
India (and Japan) are the only countries in Asia where Bangladesh’s exports have crossed $1 billion, Jaishankar pointed out. Official sources said in the northeast, Bangladesh’s trade numbers were actually in surplus. The two sides want to start work on a comprehensive trading agreement.
India and Bangladesh will start an air bubble soon, it was decided. This came in response to Bangladesh asking for India to reopen visas to Bangladeshi citizens — many come to India for medical treatment, business, shopping etc.
The joint statement also formalised a new joint mechanism — high level monitoring mechanism — between the economic affairs secretary of Bangladesh and the Indian high commissioner in Dhaka, to oversee the implementation of projects that come under the Indian lines of credit. Bangladesh is the largest recipient of Indian LOC in the world.
Jaishankar observed, “We have also been diversifying the modes of transportation to ensure movement of goods between our two countries. Recently, to circumvent the congestion and disruptions faced in the land route, we successfully commenced transport of essential commodities using the railway network.”
However, Abdul Momen also asked India to inform Bangladesh in advance about impending policy changes to export of essential commodities. Recently India’s sudden decision to ban onion exports threw Bangladesh off kilter — it took the entire MEA to reverse some of that for a special export package to Bangladesh.
New connectivity projects will include Akhaura-Agartala and Chilahati-Haldibari routes, construction for which has been delayed due to Covid. Jaisharnkar said, “We are hopeful that the flagship Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant will come on-stream by next year and so too should the India Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline (for high-speed diesel from Numaligarh Refinery).” Bangladesh is also moving forward to establish Indian Economic Zones in Mongla and Mirsarai.
Momen officially requested for Indian assistance for repatriation of Rohinya refugees to Myanmar.
The joint statement said, Momen “emphasized that unless the problem is resolved quickly, there are possibilities of pockets of radicalism disrupting economic growth, peace and stability in the region and requested India’s leverage, to address the crisis.”
India announced that it was ready to go for phase three trials for Covid vaccine in Bangladesh “soon after we launch these trials in India. Common trials would certainly help strengthen cooperation among our regulators and simplify processes for future distribution and joint production of vaccines.”
India and Bangladesh will hold joint celebrations for Mujib Barsho and commemorate 50 years of diplomatic ties in different countries where there are large numbers of Indian and Bangladeshi diaspora. India will issue a commemorative stamp of Bangabandhu on the centenary. Jaishankar also announced a “Bangabandhu-Bapu Digital Museum”.



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