When Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina began their nearly two-hour conversation at her office Saturday, he noted that 2021 would be the 50th year of Bangladesh’s independence and 2022 the 75th year of India becoming independent, underlining that the two countries should work together for “shared development”.
Hasina, in response, told Modi she appreciated his “neighbourhood first policy”.
Later, during discussions on the Land Boundary Agreement, Modi told Hasina, “Humein pata nahin tha ki Bangladesh mein itni tarah ki mithaiyan hoti hai. Woh humein tab pata lag jab LBA pass ho gaya… mithaiyan aane lagin
(I didn’t know there were so many types of sweets in Bangladesh. I got to know when the LBA was passed… sweets started flooding in).” Hasina responded, “You please tell me which ones you like, I will send them to you.”
This bonhomie was reflected in the outcomes of Saturday’s meeting when Modi announced the USD 2 billion Line of Credit for developing Bangladesh — largest after the USD 1 billion announced earlier in 2010. Hasina sported a broad smile, while her Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali and international affairs advisor Gowher Rizvi clapped.
Hasina announced two special economic zones in Mongla and Bheramara for India, and hoped this would increase Indian investments in Bangladesh substantially. Modi, aware of the precarious power situation in Bangladesh, said power supply from India to the country will be increased from 500 MW to 1100 MW within two years.
With connectivity between the two countries a buzzword, two bus services — Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala and Dhaka-Guwahati-Shillong — were launched.
To ease the visa process, Bangladesh has decided to open a mission in Guwahati, while India will open missions in Khulna and Sylhet.
While Hasina did not directly mention the Teesta issue, merely saying sharing of water of 54 common rivers was discussed, Modi said he was confident they could reach a “fair solution” on the Teesta through cooperation between Central and state governments.
“Our rivers should nurture our relationship, not become a source of discord. Water-sharing is, above all, a human issue. It affects life and livelihood on both sides of the border. I am confident that with the support of state governments in India, we can reach a fair solution on the Teesta and Feni rivers,” Modi said.
Before the bilateral talks, Modi had a 20-minute meeting with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Hasina, Modi and Mamata also had another separate meeting.
We have not merely settled a boundary, we have made our borders more secure & made our people’s lives more stable.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 6, 2015
History has been made today. We have resolved the border question that has lingered for years. http://t.co/Uw5RVwxUm4
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 6, 2015
We have resolved a question that has lingered since Independence. Our two nations have a settled boundary: PM @narendramodi
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) June 6, 2015
The three witnessed the exchange of instruments of ratification of the Land Boundary Agreement, followed by a discussion on the next steps in operationalising the pact — including demarcation of land, shifting of population and other such residual issues.
“We have shown political resolve and mutual goodwill with the Land Boundary Agreement,” Modi said, with Hasina by his side. “Our two nations have a settled boundary. It will make our borders more secure and people’s life there more stable.”
At their meeting, he is learnt to have told Hasina that the atmosphere in the Indian Parliament while passing the LBA last month was reminiscent of that inside the House in 1971. “Perhaps no world leader was as frequently and warmly referred to in the Indian Parliament as your father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman,” he told Hasina.
Hasina, who spoke in Bangla, said, “Your visit has instilled new dynamism and confidence in our relationship.”
On terrorism, she said, “We both reiterated our strong commitment to make our borders peaceful and prosperous. We also pledged zero tolerance towards terrorism and extremism.”
Among the agreements signed between the two sides were a coastal shipping pact, an agreement for certifying products manufactured in Bangladesh, and a pact to increase cooperation between the Coast Guards, to prevent human trafficking, check fake Indian currency notes, and cooperate on the blue economy.
They also renewed the bilateral trade agreement and a protocol on inland water transit and trade.
On his arrival, Modi was received by Hasina at the airport — a departure from protocol.
The PM first paid tribute to 1971 war heroes at the National Martyrs’ Memorial in Savar, and then visited the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum in Dhaka, where he was received by some of Hasina’s family members.