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Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina Arrives In India, Seven Pacts On Water-Sharing, Railways To Be Signed

Issues from border management and smuggling to trade and energy are expected to figure in talks between Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina and PM Narendra Modi.

PM Narendra Modi along with Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina.(File photo)
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Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina arrived in India on Monday, beginning her four-day visit of India. 

Hasina will hold meetings with the Indian leadership and up to seven agreements are believed to be signed during her visit across the spheres of water management, railway, science and technology, and information and broadcasting. 

Hasina will call on President Droupadi Muru and Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar and will hold bilateral consulations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), which added that External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will also call on Hasina.

"In the recent years, both sides have sustained high level of engagement, including at the highest level. The forthcoming visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will further strengthen the multifaceted relationship between the two countries based on strong historical and cultural ties and mutual trust and understanding," said MEA in a statement earlier this month. 

Besides official engagements, Hasina will visit Ajmer Sharif shrine in Rajasthan's Ajmer and the Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi, according to reports. 

Agenda of Sheikh Hasina's visit

India and Bangladesh are expected to sign an interim agreement of sharing of the Kushiyara river water following talks between Hasina and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday. 

Water-sharing is a key issue for Bangladesh and, ahead of her visit, Hasina had said in an interview that "India should show more broadness" on the issue as it's an upstream country. PTI reported that India and Bangladesh share 54 rivers, of which seven were identified earlier for developing a framework of water-sharing agreements on priority.

"So water is coming from India, so India should show more broadness. Because both the countries will be beneficiaries. So sometimes our people suffered a lot because of this need of water. Especially Teesta, we could not go for harvest and so many problems take place. So I think it should be solved but, yes we found that the Prime Minister is very, you know, eager to solve this problem," said Hasina to ANI in an interview.

Last month, India and Bangladesh finalised the text of the agreement on interim sharing of the water of the Kushiyara river. The text of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) was finalised at the 38th ministerial-level meeting of the India-Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) that took place in Delhi on August 25.

India-Bangladesh defence and strategic cooperation

The two sides will announce measures to enhance cooperation in areas of defence too. The overall strategic ties between India and Bangladesh have been on an upswing in the last few years.

The Daily Star newspaper reported that border management, combating drug smuggling and human trafficking are likely to get priority during the talks between Hasina and Modi.

Bangladesh is an important partner for India under its "Neighbourhood First" policy and the cooperation extends to areas of security, trade, commerce, energy, connectivity, science and technology, defence and maritime affairs, among others.

Trade, commerce, and and development partnership

Issues related to investment, enhanced trade relations, and power and energy sector cooperation, are likely to get priority during the talks between Hasina and Modi, according to The Daily Star.

Bangladesh is now India's biggest trade partner in South Asia and the bilateral trade has grown from USD 9 billion to USD 18 billion in the last five years. 

Bangladesh has become the fourth largest export destination for India with the exports registering a growth of over 66 per cent from USD 9.69 billion in 2020-21 to USD 16.15 billion in 2021-22.

Bangladesh is India's largest development partner with nearly one-fourth of New Delhi's commitment under the Line of Credit has been made to that country.

Total contracts have crossed the milestone figure of USD 2 billion, said a source. 

The Hindu reported that Hasina will also attend a business event being organised by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).

Sheikh Hasina's visits to sufi shrines

Hasina is also expected to visit sufi shrines in Delhi and Rajasthan's Ajmer.

The MEA said in its statement on the visit that Hasina is likely to visit Ajmer. Reports have since emerged noting that she would visit Ajmer Sharif shrine.

Wion reported that Hasina will also visit the Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi. 

"The holy Sufi shrine has been an important pilgrimage site for both PM Hasina and her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for more than half a century," noted Wion, adding that she had visited the Ajmer shrine in 2017 and 2010 as well. 

India a tested friend: Sheikh Hasina

Ahead of her visit, Hasina had said that India is a "tested friend" of Bangladesh.

She told ANI, "Well look, India is our tested friend. We always remember their contribution during our 1971 war...And how to improve our business, trade and our bonding that is important."

Hasina highlighted that despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Modi and the then-President Ram Nath Kovind visited Bangladesh when Bangladesh was celebrating the birth centenary of Father of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, also Hasina's father. 

She said, "It is important and I really thank Prime Minister Modi and also your honourable president. Both of them visited Bangladesh when we were celebrating our father of the nation birth centenary and also our independence, 50 years of our Independence Day, and our friendship with India...That their visit at such a time, even that time there was a Covid-19 but this pandemic, but beside that both of them honoured us, honoured our people."

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(With PTI inputs)

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