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Modi, Hasina seal pacts: Vaccines to trains, tech to nuclear power

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla quoted Modi — he returned to New Delhi Saturday night — telling Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina that this visit had given “nayi urja, nayi gati (new energy, new pace) to the relationship.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | Dhaka |
Updated: March 28, 2021 8:54:01 am
Modi, Hasina seal pacts: Vaccines to trains, tech to nuclear powerPrime Minister Narendra Modi with Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina.

A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled his roadmap for a shared future with Bangladesh, New Delhi and Dhaka came up Saturday with a series of targeted, tangible steps to give a push to bilateral ties.

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla quoted Modi — he returned to New Delhi Saturday night — telling Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina that this visit had given “nayi urja, nayi gati (new energy, new pace) to the relationship.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bangladesh Prime Minister Modi at the Bangabandhu Mausoleum Complex on Saturday. (Source: Twitter/@narendramodi)

From developing a nuclear power plant to border haats; more consignments of Covid vaccines to a new train service; from a start-up conclave that will bring together entrepreneurs from both countries to India’s participation in the first-ever air show in Bangladesh in 2022, from cooperation in space to artificial intelligence — a slew of outcomes covering several areas were listed in the joint statement issued after the Mod-Hasina bilateral.

According Hasina’s spokesperson Ihasanul Karim, the Bangladesh PM is learnt to have raised the issue of water-sharing of common rivers, including that of the Teesta River, when she said the decision of signing the Teesta water-sharing treaty was taken jointly nine years ago and was still to be implemented.

Karim quoted Prime Minister Modi as replying: “We are committed to a reasonable solution to sharing of water of all the rivers.”

The joint statement acknowledged this: “She (Hasina) underscored that to alleviate the sufferings and save the livelihoods of millions of people dependent on the Teesta river basin, it is necessary that Bangladesh receives its fair share of the Teesta waters, the draft agreement of which has already been agreed upon by both Governments in January 2011. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated India’s sincere commitment and continued efforts to conclude this agreement, in consultation with the relevant stakeholders.”

New Delhi continued its focus on health cooperation gifting 1.2 million Covid vaccine doses. Bangladesh is the largest foreign recipient of India-made vaccines – 10.2 million doses, including 3.2 million as a gift. Delhi has also given 109 life-support ambulances, some of them specifically meant for Rohingya refugee camps at Cox’s Bazaar.

Both leaders emphasized the importance of “effective border management for ensuring a tranquil, stable and crime-free border”, the joint statement said. And directed border forces to enhance “people-oriented measures for ensuring border security and bring down such death of civilians to zero”.

The Bangladesh side reiterated its request for a 1.3-km Innocent Passage – allowing passage of the other side’s boats with restrictions — through the river route along with River Padma near Rajshahi District. The Indian side gave an assurance that it would consider the request. India requested for completion of border-fencing in all pending sectors at the earliest, beginning with the Tripura-Bangladesh sector. Dhaka assured Delhi that it would look into the matter.

Both sides reiterated their strong commitment to eliminating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Modi expressed India’s appreciation for the cooperation extended by Bangladesh in security-related matters, the joint statement said.

Recalling that Bangladesh launched its first satellite, Bangabandhu Satellite (BS-1) in 2017, Hasina said that the nation would launch its second satellite soon. Both Prime Ministers agreed on further collaboration and technology transfer in space and satellite research, the joint statement said.

Emerging cutting-edge areas of “science, artificial intelligence, peaceful uses of nuclear technology, big data and technology-enabled services in health and education,” were identified as new sectors of co-operation. To facilitate further youth exchanges between the two countries, Modi invited 50 young entrepreneurs from Bangladesh to visit India and pitch their ideas to venture capitalists.

On Rohingya refugees, “Hasina requested India, as a member of the United Nations Security Council, to play a strong role in the early repatriation of the displaced Rohingyas back to Myanmar. India assured its continued support in this regard,” the joint statement said.

Modi expressed appreciation at the generosity of Bangladesh in providing humanitarian assistance to the 1.1 million forcibly displaced persons from the Rakhine State of Myanmar.

Both sides emphasized on the quick conclusion of the ongoing study on the prospects of entering into a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).

Modi, who later met Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid, said that India will always stand by the progress and development of Bangladesh as a faithful friend.

Pacts were signed in the areas of Disaster Management; trade remedial measures; supply of ICT equipment; training for a digital service; establishment of sports facilities.

Both sides also inaugurated Mitali Express, a passenger train service on the Dhaka-New Jalpaiguri-Dhaka route through the Chilahati-Haldibari rail link and announced linking the historic road between Mujibnagar and Nadia.

Earlier in the day, Modi spoke to Matua community members after offering prayers at their temple in Gopalganj’s Orakandi; visited the mausoleum of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the centuries-old Jeshoreshwari Kali temple.

Secretary Shringla said: “These are not two countries where we just visit each other’s capitals and go back, or have meetings in drawing rooms and go back. These are countries with so much shared history and cultural legacy that we go to different parts of the country.”

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