PM Modi heads to Bangladesh to celebrate `Golden era’ of friendship; Teesta Waters, Indo-Pacific and other issues on the agenda

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Updated: Mar 25, 2021 6:41 PM

Besides PM Modi, other heads of state and government from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives will be among the foreign guests to join Bangladesh in its celebrations of 50 years of the country's independence and the birth centenary of its founder ‘Bangabandhu' Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

“Bangladesh continues to be India’s `closest neighbour’. The ties the country has entered a `golden era’,” said the foreign secretary.“Bangladesh continues to be India’s `closest neighbour’. The ties the country has entered a `golden era’,” said the foreign secretary. (File image)

Post COVID-19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is leaving on a two day visit to Dhaka (March 26-27, 2021). This is his first visit overseas after the global pandemic lockdown. According to the foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, “Prime Minister Modi will hold talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and will travel across the length and breadth of Bangladesh.” Several agreements and MoUs between the two countries are expected to be inked. “We are still in the process of firming up the agreements, to be signed during the visit,” the foreign secretary told the media.

Besides PM Modi, other heads of state and government from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives will be among the foreign guests to join Bangladesh in its celebrations of 50 years of the country’s independence and the birth centenary of its founder ‘Bangabandhu’ Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Places PM Modi will visit

To pay homage to the martyrs at the National Memorial in Savar.

To pay tribute to Bangladesh’s founding father at the Bangabandhu Museum at Dhanmondi 32.

Two Hindu temples located outside Dhaka – one in Gopalganj and in southwestern Satkhira. These are temples where the Hindu Matua Community goes to worship.

Teesta water sharing

In response to a media query, the foreign secretary reiterated India’s commitment to conclude the Teesta Agreement. According to him, “It is an important issue and will be discussed. We are interested in concluding the Teesta Agreement. There are a large number of rivers and Teesta is only one of them.”

Recently the two countries during the water resources secretary-level meeting met and have agreed to expand cooperation in issues relating to water resources.

What is the Teesta Water Issue?

There are 56 rivers that flow between India and Bangladesh. And it is not just about the flow of water. The issues involve the water flows being used for drinking and irrigation purposes. And the two countries are making efforts to resolve this amicably.

The Teesta River flows through Sikkim before entering West Bengal. And, then, finally merges with the Brahmaputra in Assam and then the Jamuna in Bangladesh.

Last December, during their virtual summit Prime Minister Hasina had raised the matter with PM Modi. Why? Because it has become a contentious issue in Dhaka’s domestic politics and In India, water is a state subject and the matter has to be resolved after discussions with the State Government before the matter can be resolved.

Read: India, Bangladesh ink 7 agreements; Connectivity and energy cooperation top agenda

Bangladesh & BRI

“Bangladesh continues to be India’s `closest neighbour’. The ties the country has entered a `golden era’,” said the foreign secretary.

He was responding to a question on Bangladesh being part of China’s Belt and Road initiative. And, also the fact that Dhaka is keen to be part of the Indo-Pacific initiative.

Enhanced Connectivity with Bangladesh

India is planning to get Bangladesh under the umbrella of Indo-Pacific Cooperation and towards this end has been focusing on enhancing connectivity with Bangladesh.

Read: Neighbourhood First: India and Bangladesh to operationalise route 9 and 10, better connectivity to enhance trade

Recently, PM Modi and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina virtually inaugurated the ‘Maitri Setu’. This will help in connecting the landlocked Northeast to get an easy access to the Chittagong Port of Bangladesh.

As has been reported earlier, this 1.9-km bridge, which is built over the Feni River, will connect Tripura with Bangladesh. And, on the Indian side, this bridge will be connected with an integrated check post on the land border between Sabroom in India and Ramgarh in Bangladesh.

Other connectivity projects that are high on the priority list include the Asian Highway Network routes (AH-1 and 2). This will connect the two countries at the Petrapole-Benapole, Fulbari-Banglabandha and Dawki-Tamabil points. And, the rail link between Akhaura (Bangladesh) and Agartala (India).

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