Neighbouring Bangladesh is the highest recipient of the vaccines from India. It has received so far 9 million doses of the COVISHIELD vaccines from Serum Institute of India (SII). At a joint press interaction in Dhaka with his Bangladesh counterpart, AK Abdul Momen, on Thursday, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar, highlighted the broader contours of India-Bangladesh relation. “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, India is partnering with the neighbouring country Bangladesh in economic and health-related matters,” the minister said.
Terming India-Bangladesh relationship as `rock solid’ Mr Momen said, “Though are 135 countries in the world which are yet to get the COVID-19 vaccine, India is our friend and we have such a rock solid relationship. We have got the vaccine and everyone is very happy.”
Adding, “The COVID vaccine has been purchased by Bangladesh from the Serum Institute of India (SII), Pune, India. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is implementing the nationwide vaccination programme free of cost very efficiently and effectively.”
Killings of Bangladesh nationals
To a question from the local media in Dhaka, Dr Jaishankar said “Criminal activities are responsible for the killings along the India-Bangladesh border.”
While adding that several of the reported deaths the nationals of Bangladesh “are fairly deep inside India”, every death is regrettable but we also have to ask ourselves why there is a problem, and the problem is because of crime.”
“So our shared objective should be a no crime-no death border.”
Importance of this statement
There has been an increase in the killings of Bangladesh nationals. According to media reports in Bangladesh last December, the incidents of the killings were the highest in 2020 decade.
Forthcoming visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
The visit of the external affairs minister to Dhaka is in preparation of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to that country later this month. The visit which is slated for March 26, he will participate in the Independence Day celebrations in Dhaka, marking half a century of that country’s independent existence.
Dr Jaishankar also took stock of the bilateral relations between the two countries and also reviewed the ongoing issues between the two neighbours.
Teesta water issue
On the Teesta Water issue, at the media conference, Indian minister said that the issue of sharing of the waters came up during the meetings. The Water Resources secretaries are expected to meet very soon. “The position of the Government of India has not changed.”
He also talked about the bilateral relations between the two countries covering every aspect of the relationship – from people to people, to connectivity which will help in changing the geo-economics of the region.
View of a senior journalist and Bangladesh commentator
Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Gautam Lahiri says, “It is a coincidence that Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Dhaka is just before the first phase of assembly polls in West Bengal and Assam which share common borders with Bangladesh.”
“As External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar indicates the whole range of bilateral relation is part of act east policy the relationship should show a milestone during the Prime Minister’s visit,” he says.
According to Gautam Lahiri, “Most of the connectivity and trade related issues will have an impact on the daily lives of people.”
On Defence Cooperation: Mr Lahiri says, “After Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in 2018 first time sharing defence cooperation was mentioned. It indicates more intense defence cooperation is on the cards. China is the biggest military hardware supplier to Bangladesh. And, keeping this in perspective India wants to extend more cooperation in defence. Security cooperation has become important ingredients in the talk. Military coup in Myanmar has created social unrest in the country. As India shares common borders both with Myanmar and Bangladesh security cooperation will be key components in the bilateral talks.”
In conclusion the Bangladesh commentator observed, “The External Affairs Minister praised Bangladesh for graduating to a developing nation. This means, now the India-Bangladesh Free Trade agreement should follow.”