Neighbourhood First: India offers Bangladesh COVID-19 vaccine, both countries to focus on fencing, cross border crimes

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August 21, 2020 10:36 AM

Briefing the media persons, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Anurag Srivastava said, “The Foreign Secretary had informed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina about India’s efforts towards COVID-19 vaccine. And also about the development and distribution of the vaccine. The two sides have agreed to continue their discussions in the area of vaccines and therapeutics.”

Neighbourhood First, india bangladesh ties, COVID-19 vaccine, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, narendra modi, Sheikh Hasina, covid 19 pandemicIndia and Bangladesh have decided to have a high level monitoring mechanism on regular basis which will monitor the progress of the ongoing projects. (File photo: PTI)

In line with its `Neighbourhood First’ policy, India is expected to COVID-19 vaccine on priority basis with Bangladesh when it is ready. During his two day visit to the capital city of Bangladesh, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla in his talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other top officials, talks focused on strengthening bilateral relations and help in dealing with COVID-19 pandemic.

Briefing the media persons, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Anurag Srivastava said, “The Foreign Secretary had informed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina about India’s efforts towards COVID-19 vaccine. And also about the development and distribution of the vaccine. The two sides have agreed to continue their discussions in the area of vaccines and therapeutics.”

As has been reported by Financial Express Online earlier, China has offered big help to neighbouring Bangladesh to deal with the global pandemic of COVID-19. In fact, after allowing China to assess the pandemic preparation early June, recently, the Bangladesh Medical Research Council (BMRC) allowed the Phase III human trial of the anti-COVID-19 vaccine produced by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

Senior journalist and Bangladesh commentator Gautam Lahiri had told Financial Express Online earlier, “Perhaps, the sudden visit of the foreign secretary to Bangladesh could be related to offering help to deal with the COVID-19.”

From the time the crisis of global pandemic erupted, India has extended all help to its neighbours including Bangladesh. And in the midst of the crisis organized capacity building courses for that country’s medical personnel. This was soon after the video conference of the SAARC leaders which was addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had also announced the creation of the SAARC Emergency Response Fund for COVID-19. Even Bangladesh has committed around USD 1.5 million to the fund.

On the agenda of talks was also the proposal for a travel bubble for flights with Bangladesh. This will help in the smooth movement of official, business and medical travellers. In his talks with Prime Minister Hasina, security matters of mutual interest were also discussed. Besides fencing and efforts to jointly prevent trans-border crimes, both also talked about the repatriation of internally displaced persons from the Rakhine state.

Connectivity & Development Assistance

In the next one year, projects like the Rampal Maitree Power Plant, India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline, and rail links between Akhaura-Agartala and Chilahati-Haldibari and Khulna-Mongla rail line are expected to be completed with assistance from India.

It was also decided that the foreign ministers of the two countries should meet soon for the Joint Consultative Commission, to review the entire gamut of bilateral relationship including the projects.

India and Bangladesh have decided to have a high level monitoring mechanism on regular basis which will monitor the progress of the ongoing projects.

Several initiatives to boost connectivity and trade have been taken by both countries. And, this includes the movement of Indian cargo from Agartala to Kolkata via Chattogram, and expansion of the scope of the Protocol that governs trade and transit on inland waterways.

Also, parcel and container train services between the two countries has been started. India has recently gifted 10 locomotives to Bangladesh.

Celebrations being planned

Besides the Mujib Barsho celebrations when India plans to issue a commemorative stamp, there are plans to have joint celebrations on the 50 years of the liberation of Bangladesh and the establishment of diplomatic ties between India and Bangladesh in 2021.

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