In a departure from protocol, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is likely to receive Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday at the Hazrat Shahjalal airport, Bangladesh officials told The Indian Express. Hasina may also see him off at the airport when his visit ends.
It is learnt that Bangladesh is willing to discuss the issue of illegal migration with a proposal to give “special permits” to Bangladeshi nationals who want to work in India. Bangladesh Foreign Ministry, it is learnt, is ready with a concrete proposal on the issue.
Sources said the proposal was first mooted during External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Dhaka in June, 2014.
“We are open to the idea. It is up to India to decide. Whatever is mutually beneficial will be done,” Hasina’s international affairs advisor Gowher Rizvi said.
“Workers’ movement”, he said, happens due to “economic reasons”. “If Bangladesh workers don’t go to India, India’s harvest-cutting will be badly affected. Similarly, Bangladesh earns income.”
He said that it is not a “contentious issue”. “We are working towards smoothening the issue between the people of two countries,” Rizvi, known to influence Bangladesh foreign policy in a significant way, said.
On the Teesta water sharing issue, Bangladesh officials are hopeful of a positive outcome in the future. “West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s presence is indicative of better days ahead,” a Bangladesh diplomat said.
Banerjee arrived Friday night and is staying at the Radisson Blu hotel, which is near the airport but at a distance from the Pan Pacific Sonargaon hotel, where Modi will stay. She will be present during the exchange of instruments of ratification of the land boundary agreement (LBA).
Bangladesh PM’s media adviser Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury said, “I won’t be surprised if there is a dramatic development. When big leaders meet, miracles happen.”
He pointed to Mamata’s statement in February this year, when she came to Bangladesh and was asked about the Teesta water sharing issue. “She had said, ‘Trust me… repose your confidence in me.’ These were her words,” Chowdhury said.
On the possible outcomes on the economic side, Indian diplomats said India will soon set up two special economic zones near ports in southern Bangladesh. “This is one of the ways to overcome the trade imbalance between the two countries,” a diplomat said.
As far as symbolism is concerned, the two prime ministers will exchange some items. Modi will hand over a CD of the speech of Mujibur Rehman (made in Kolkata on February 6, 1972) and the transcripts of the Indian parliamentary sessions regarding the LBA. Hasina will present the photograph of the “instrument of surrender” being signed after the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war.
Modi is also scheduled to meet Bangladesh’s leader of opposition Begum Roshan Ershad, former prime minister Khaleda Zia, presidents of leading chambers of commerce and industry and leaders of left parties.
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