In addition to increasing trade and connectivity, Bangladesh and India want to bring more momentum to them through cooperation in new fields. In this process, Bangladesh has placed special emphasis on sub-regional cooperation with Nepal and Bhutan. In this case, India also agrees to all kinds of cooperation with Bangladesh.
Diplomatic sources in Dhaka told Prothom Alo that during her talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina laid special emphasis on enhancing trade and commerce and increasing people-to-people contacts between the two countries as well as sub-regional cooperation. The matter was also reflected in a joint statement issued on Saturday night after talks between the two top leaders.
A diplomatic source in Delhi told Prothom Alo on Sunday afternoon that the Indian Prime Minister attended the birth centenary celebrations of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the golden jubilee of the Bangladesh Liberation War and discussed existing issues to speed up cooperation. He also emphasized the need for co-operation in coronavirus or covid-19, information and communication technology and cooperation in space research. The source said India wanted to be involved in the launch of the second satellite planned by Bangladesh.
While emphasizing on the future of the relationship in the talks between the two top leaders, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also mentioned the need to resolve unresolved issues. He also highlighted the issue of Teesta water sharing, which has been hanging for a decade. Bangladesh also expects India to play an active role in finding a lasting solution to the Rohingya crisis. The joint declaration raises the issue of demand and reciprocity of the two sides on regular issues of cooperation such as water sharing, trade, connectivity and electricity. The declaration of Article 72 also highlighted the issue of regional issues such as the Rohingya crisis.
Trade and electricity
As part of the expansion of trade during Narendra Modi’s visit, Bangladesh and India have called for the speedy completion of a joint study aimed at signing the Joint Economic Partnership Agreement. In order to increase trade and commerce, emphasis has been laid on modernization of customs ports on an urgent basis. The two countries have agreed to enhance cooperation between the BSTI and the BIS, the regulatory body, as part of the product integration of each other’s products to facilitate trade. The two countries emphasized on sub-regional cooperation with Nepal and Bhutan on cooperation in the power sector. To this end, India attaches special importance to the sub-regional process for the introduction of cross-border power trade.
During Narendra Modi’s visit, Bangladesh sought India’s cooperation to join the trilateral (India-Myanmar-Thailand) highway. A diplomatic source in Delhi told this correspondent that out of 1,300 kilometers of the proposed highway, 1,160 kilometers fell in Myanmar. During his visit to Dhaka in early March, Indian Foreign Minister S Jayashankar advised Bangladesh to discuss the issue with Myanmar. He mentioned that India will make a request on behalf of Bangladesh. Besides, Bangladesh should hold talks with Myanmar.
India is already in a positive position in terms of sub-regional cooperation. It has given free transit to Bangladesh to go to Nepal and Bhutan. The leaders of the two countries have initially agreed to move goods and passengers through the speedy implementation of the BBIN or Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicle Agreement for regional integration.
Asked about the future of relations between the two countries, former foreign secretary and senior fellow at the South Asian University’s South Asian Institute of Policy and Governance said. Shahidul Haque said in the first light, it is time to adjust the relationship in the context of the new world. Borders are not just about security. Emphasis must be placed on ensuring that borders are for human development. The people will directly benefit from the joint projects. Otherwise, its ultimate success will not come. He said increasing people-to-people contacts is not just about making visas easier, it is more than that.