Demonstrating the importance attached to relations between close neighbours, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s India visit (September 5-8) saw a good number of decisions jointly agreed upon by the two countries.
Emphasis on greater collaboration in the spirit of friendship and partnership for prosperity and development of the region.
Enhancing rail connectivity in Bangladesh
Appreciation for ongoing bilateral initiatives, such as:
— Conversion to dual-gauge of Tongi-Akhaura line
— Supply of railway rolling stock to Bangladesh Railway
— Capacity building for the personnel of Bangladesh Railway in reputed training institutes of Indian Railways
— Sharing IT solutions for improved services of Bangladesh Railway
New initiatives to enhance Bangladesh-India Rail connectivity
— Kaunia-Lalmonirhat-Mogalghat-New Gitaldaha link
— Establishing a link between Hili and Birampur
— Upgradation of track, signaling systems and railway stations along the Benapole-Jashore line
— Link restoration between Burimari and Changrabandha
— Construction of a container depot in Sirajganj
Importantly, for these projects, Bangladesh and India have agreed to explore funding through multiple financial instruments under the bilateral development cooperation framework.
Upon Bangladesh's request, India has committed to provide 20 broad-gauge diesel locomotives to Bangladesh, on grant basis
Withstanding global economic shocks
A special G2G arrangement for predictable supply of essential food commodities such as rice, wheat, sugar, onion, ginger and garlic from India to Bangladesh is expected to be worked out.
Facilitating smooth movement of people and goods.
Expediting completion of development work within 150 yards of the international border, including critical immigration and trade-related infrastructure on the various border crossings along the over 4,000 km long border.
Border security and management
For a peaceful and crime-free border, completion of fencing along the unfenced patches of the entire border, beginning with the Tripura Sector, was agreed upon by both leaders.
Stepped up efforts by border guarding forces has helped decrease the number of deaths at the border. Greater cooperation against smuggling of arms, narcotics, fake currency, and trafficking, particularly of women and children, was also appreciated.
Committed to jointly fight terrorism
Both leaders reiterated their strong commitment to eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
Further strengthening cooperation to counter and prevent the spread of terrorism, violent extremism and radicalisation in the region and beyond was agreed upon.
Defence and security cooperation
Early finalization of projects under the USD 500 million Defence Line of Credit was agreed upon, including the procurement plan of vehicles for the Bangladesh Army.
Early operationalization of the 2019 MOU on Coastal Radar System for enhanced maritime security.
River water cooperation
Convening of the Joint Rivers Commission Ministerial Meeting, after more than a decade, where progress on cooperation on all shared rivers was reviewed, was appreciated by the leaders.
With the cooperation of all stakeholders in India, including the state government of Assam, the Kushiyara MoU has been signed. It will help Bangladeshi farmers irrigate land in northeastern Bangladesh during the dry season and similarly, southern Assam is expected to benefit from it.
Bangladesh noted a request from Tripura government on sharing of Feni river water.
Drinking water project for the people of Tripura will now soon operationalize with the necessary approvals and clearances provided by Bangladesh to activate the 2019 MoU on withdrawal of 1.82 cusec of water from the Feni river.
Greater number of rivers will now be included for data exchange and formulating framework of interim water sharing agreements.
Formulation of Joint Technical Committee to conduct a survey for optimum utilization of Ganges water agreed upon by both sides.
Bangladesh reiterated request to conclude Teesta Treaty finalized in 2011.
Both sides agreed to enhance cooperation on tackling river pollution, improving riverine environment and navigability.
Bangladesh-India JV on Special Purpose Vehicle to connect a high capacity 765 kV transmission line from Katihar (Bihar) to Parbatipur (Bangladesh) to Bornagar (Assam). This line is expected to facilitate both import and export of electricity by Bangladesh, as per seasonal demand.
Sub-regional power grid connecting Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh got a boost. India informed that its internal guidelines are in place for the setting up of such a network.
To help address Bangladesh’s energy needs, both sides hoped for the early completion of the transboundary India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline that will carry diesel rom India directly to Bangladesh.
To meet the growing requirements of petroleum products for Bangladesh’s economy, India agreed to facilitate preliminary discussions between authorized agencies of both countries.
India thanked Bangladesh for the support extended to facilitate movement of petroleum, oil and lubricants from Assam to Tripura via Bangladesh, in light of the devastating flood situation in Assam and Meghalaya this year.
Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL), a Govt of India PSU, is now eligible to supply on G2G basis petroleum products to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh lauded India for the efficiency and speed with which funds disbursement under Govt of India-linked Lines of Credit have taken place, especially over the last year. Close to USD 1.1 billion of the concessional aid extended to Bangladesh has already been disbursed.
Bangladesh is India’s top-most development partner. Bangladesh alone caters for about one-fourth or 25% of all development financing extended by India to other countries.
Enhancing bilateral and sub-regional trade and connectivity
Both Leaders agreed to expedite efforts to operationalize Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement. Once agreed, seamless movement of vehicles, personal and commercial, will be possible across borders of the four countries.
To enhance sub-regional connectivity, India proposed preparation of a Detailed Project Report on a new highway connecting Hili (West Bengal) via Bangladesh to Mahendraganj (Meghalaya). In this context, Bangladesh also proposed its participation in the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway.
Inviting Bangladesh’s business community to utilize the free transit offered by India through specified Land Customs Stations/Airports/Seaports on its territory, India welcomed Bangladeshi exports to third countries. This is over and above the free transit already in place for Bangladeshi businesses exporting to Nepal and Bhutan.
Mutually beneficial two-way trade
Successful trial runs under the 2015 Agreement on use of Chattogram and Mongla ports have been completed.
Maitri Bridge connecting Bangladesh with India’s Tripura also awaits operationalization and India requested Bangladesh to expedite completion of remaining infrastructure, immigration and customs facilities at Ramgarh.
To enhance two-way business, removal of port restrictions imposed by Bangladesh on Indian goods was again emphasized on.
Both sides directed trade officials to start negotiations on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement within 2022 and complete the same before 2026, when Bangladesh graduates from its LDC status and to retain the Duty Free Quota Free benefits it currently enjoys.
To facilitate movement of goods between Bangladesh and India, India’s proposal to fund and build a second freight gate at the country’s busiest landport, the Benapole-Petrapole ICP, was welcomed by Bangladesh.
Bangabandhu and spirit of Liberation War
The jointly produced biopic on Bangabandhu, “Mujib – the making of a nation”, is likely to complete soon and be launched next year.
Joint production of a documentary on the Liberation War and compilation of rare video footage was agreed upon.
Deep appreciation for India’s gesture to provide medical treatment provided to over 100 Bangladeshi Freedom Fighters at prestigious Indian hospitals, on gratis basis, since 2018.
Futuristic areas of cooperation
First visit of a startup delegation from Bangladesh to India.
Joint conservation of the Sundarbans.
Augmenting cooperation in peaceful use of outer space, green energy, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and technology enabled services in finance, health and education.
India expressed appreciation at the generosity of Bangladesh in sheltering and providing humanitarian assistance to over a million persons forcibly displaced from the Rakhine State in Myanmar and underlined its continuing commitment to ensure the safe, sustainable, and expeditious return of these forcibly displaced people to their homeland.
India appreciated the contribution of Bangladesh in hosting the BIMSTEC Secretariat and developing its infrastructure. The Indian side reiterated its support to Bangladesh in its capacity as the Chair of Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).