India and Bangladesh have decided to start negotiations on a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) later this year and identified new sectors to further strengthen their bilateral relations.
At the end of talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting leader of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina seven agreements were signed related to railways, water sharing, space technology and judiciary.
Briefing media persons at the end of bilateral talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the visiting leader of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said that at the meeting today the decision to start negotiations later this year was taken.
For Bangladeshi products, India is the largest market in Asia and despite the global pandemic of Covid-19 the bilateral trade between the two countries has touched a record high of $18 billion in FY2022.
At the special briefing the Foreign Secretary said, “To sustain this momentum both leaders have directed concerned ministries to commence negotiations on a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) this year in 2022 and complete it in time for Bangladesh’s final graduation from the LDC status.”
The visit of the Bangladesh PM to India is part of the sustained high level political engagement between the two countries, said the foreign secretary. Adding, “These back to back exchanges at the highest level underscore the special nature of our relationship and importance that both our countries attach to our growing strategic partnership.”
Outcome of the talks
Both the leaders while exchanging views and perspectives on regional and global issues had productive discussions on different aspects of the bilateral relations in various sectors. These include energy partnership, water cooperation, trade and economic ties, security and political, development partnership as well as strengthening of people to people ties.
According to Mr Kwatra both leaders witnessed the exchange of seven MoUs in different sectors and also unveiled and inaugurated important development projects including unit 1 of the joint power plant and Rupsha Bridge.
The two leaders underscored the importance of continuing of close security cooperation in critical fields of counter terrorism, cross border crimes and border management. The two leaders also agreed to build resilience supply chains not only between the two countries but also across the region.
As has been reported earlier, Bangladesh is one of India’s important development partners. Leaders of both countries have agreed to further deepen development partnership in sectors like the upgradation of the railway projects in that country.
For better connectivity in the region, have agreed to further strengthen cooperation in coastal connectivity, road, rail and inland waterways.
Since the trial runs of multimodal Freight through Mangla ports to India’s Northeastern region were successful, the two countries are looking for an early completion and operationalization of this route.
Focus of talks was on establishing cross border interconnections as it would help both sides to meet their energy needs.
The two leaders also reviewed the progress on the India Bangladesh friendship pipeline. This project is being undertaken through ground and once completed will help in the movement of high speed diesel to northern Bangladesh from India.
Bangladesh has acknowledged Indian Oil Corporation Limited as a registered government to government supply of refined petroleum products. This will help in boosting cooperation between the two countries in the energy sector.
Water Sharing Arrangement
Earlier in the day, at a press conference at the end of talks, PM Sheikh Hasina sought an early conclusion of the Teesta water sharing agreement which has been hanging fire for more than a decade. She noted that the two countries share 54 rivers.
In the first bilateral water sharing agreement since the Ganges Treaty, the two leaders welcomed the signing of an interim water sharing arrangement for the Kushiyara River. “This will benefit the people of Southern Assam and Sylhet division in Bangladesh,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the end of the talks.
During talks between the leaders, the foreign secretary said it was decided that the two countries will continue to address common challenges like river pollution, flood management and more.
People to People
More youth exchange programmes are on the anvil. Next month India will receive a 100-member youth delegation from Bangladesh.
Interaction with Business Leaders
On Wednesday, visiting PM Sheikh Hasina is set to interact with business leaders of both the countries. This meeting will be attended by the Minister for development of north-eastern region, G Kishan Reddy.
The Bangladesh Prime Minister is on a four day long state visit to India which will help to strengthen the multifaceted relationships between the two neighbours.
Issue of counterterrorism
The two leaders talked about counterterrorism and stressed to cooperate in fight against fundamentalism and terrorism. PM Modi said “To keep the spirit of 1971 alive, it’s also very necessary that we face such forces together, who want to attack our mutual trust.”
Expressing her appreciation for PM Modi’s vision of a stronger India-Bangladesh relationship, Prime Minister Hasina thanked PM Modi and India for the hospitality extended to her and also congratulated on the 75th anniversary of Indian independence.