Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi have agreed to make the existing bilateral relations between the two countries future-oriented, with both focusing on "new energy for the new pathway."
During his two-day visit, Modi mostly emphasised his country's bilateral relations with Bangladesh.
Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said this was Modi's first overseas visit during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic which proves his priority for the neighbourhood first policy.
He said Bangladesh had received the highest amount of Covid-19 vaccines from India, which was also a part of the neighbourhood first policy.
Hasina and Modi expressed satisfaction at the excellent state of bilateral relations, based on deep historical and fraternal ties, that reflect an all-encompassing partnership based on equality, trust, and understanding, which transcends even a strategic partnership.
Discussing future-oriented bilateral relations at a bilateral meeting at Hasina's office on Saturday, Modi emphasised investing in the future to tap into the potential of young people.
Apart from connectivity and trade, both sides acknowledged the potential of new and emerging areas of cooperation in bilateral relations and directed the authorities concerned on both sides to focus on and extend cooperation in cutting-edge areas of science, artificial intelligence, peaceful uses of nuclear technology, big data, and technology-enabled services in health and education.
Hasina said Bangladesh would launch a second satellite soon. In this regard, both the prime ministers agreed for further collaboration and technology transfer in space and satellite research.
The Indian foreign secretary said connectivity expansion between the two countries had been discussed at the bilateral meeting.
Bangladesh's Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said Modi had praised Hasina's visionary initiatives on multimodal connectivity through road, rail and river.
He said infrastructure development is a major element of enhancing connectivity.
At the meeting, Bangladesh reiterated its eagerness to partner in the ongoing initiative of the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway project.
To facilitate better connectivity and simplify the movement of passengers and goods between the two countries, both leaders agreed to an early operationalisation of the BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement through expeditious signing of the Enabling Memorandum of Understanding for Bangladesh, India, and Nepal to commence the movement of goods and passengers, with a provision for Bhutan to join at a later date.
Bangladesh requested India for favourable consideration of the new connectivity routes proposed by the former, including allowing additional land ports of Bhadrapur-Bairagi Galgalia, Biratnagar-Jogmani, and Birganj-Raxaul to be connected with Banglabandha-Fulbari and Birol-Radhikapur by road as alternative routes.
India was also requested to consider connecting Birol-Radhikapur and Rohanpur-Singhabad rail-interchanges with Biratnagar-Jogmani, with Bangladesh saying this would help reduce the distance and cost of transporting goods by rail from Bangladesh to Nepal.
Bangladesh also sought rail connectivity with Bhutan through the newly inaugurated Chilahati-Haldibari route.
Moreover, India requested Bangladesh for cooperation in establishing connectivity between Guwahati and Chattogram and also from Mahendraganj in Meghalaya to Hili in West Bengal. Bangladesh requested a detailed proposal in this regard.
Momen said Hasina had reiterated Bangladesh's long-pending request for concluding the interim agreement on sharing the Teesta River water.
Modi reiterated India's sincere commitment and continued efforts to conclude the agreement in consultation with the relevant stakeholders, said the Indian foreign secretary.
The Indian side also requested for early finalisation of the draft of the interim agreement on sharing water of the Feni River, pending with the Bangladesh side which had been agreed upon by both sides in 2011.
The two leaders directed their respective water resources ministries to work towards an early conclusion of the framework of interim agreement on sharing of waters of six common rivers – Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla, and Dudhkumar.
They directed the Joint Technical Committee formed for the purpose to expeditiously start the feasibility study of the Ganges-Padma barrage and other alternative options in Bangladesh for the optimum utilisation of the Ganges waters received by Bangladesh as per the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty 1996.
To enhance trade between the two countries, both the prime ministers underscored the need for removing non-tariff barriers. The Bangladesh side requested to lift the new policy of the Indian customs stipulating verification of certificates of origin issued from Bangladesh.
The Indian side conveyed that under the provisions of the new customs rules, in the event of a conflict between a provision of these rules and rules of origin of a trade agreement, the provisions of the rules of origin of the trade agreement shall prevail.
Furthermore, for bilateral trade to flourish, both the leaders stressed the need for predictability of trade policies, regulations, and procedures.
Both sides expressed satisfaction with institutional assistance between the two countries concerning security issues. India thanked Bangladesh for ensuring security in the former's north-eastern region.
Hasina strongly demanded to ensure that no Bangladeshi be killed by India's Border Security Force at the border.
Modi expressed appreciation at the generosity of Bangladesh to shelter and provide humanitarian assistance to the 10 lakh Rohingya refugees. Both the prime ministers reiterated the importance of their safe as well as speedy and sustainable return to their homeland for the greater security of the region.
Hasina requested India, as a member of the United Nations Security Council, to play a strong role in the early repatriation of the Rohingyas. India assured its continued support in this regard.
The Bangladeshi prime minister thanked India for considering Bangladesh's proposal to name the historic road from Mujib Nagar to Nadia on the Bangladesh-India border as Shadhinota Shorok, commemorating the historic significance of the road during Bangladesh's Liberation War.
Both sides looked forward to inaugurating the road soon as part of the joint celebrations.
The leaders of both countries stressed the urgent need for upgrading infrastructure and facilities of the land customs stations (LCSs) or land ports in a coordinated manner to facilitate trade between the two countries.
India congratulated Bangladesh on its upcoming graduation from the LDC status. Recognising the immense potential of bilateral economic and commercial ties, both sides emphasised an expeditious conclusion of the ongoing joint study on the prospects of entering a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA).
Both sides agreed to explore resuming regular air travel and lifting restrictions for movement through land ports at the earliest as well as to operationalise the train and bus services between the two countries at the earliest.
Noting that the full resumption of travel will depend on the coronavirus situation, the Indian side expressed hope that the full scale travel would resume soon.
Both sides exchanged views on the situation of the pandemic in their respective countries and expressed satisfaction at the manner in which sustained engagement between the two countries has been maintained during the ongoing crisis.
Bangladesh thanked the Indian government for gifting 3.2 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine made in India and appreciated the prompt delivery of the first batch of five million doses.
Both the prime ministers acknowledged the importance of deeper collaboration between the two countries in the backdrop of the pandemic on public health sector, particularly in health care services and research.
The Bangladesh side requested greater mutual cooperation focusing on training, capacity building, and technology transfer. It highlighted that biosecurity cooperation is an area that may be explored by both sides as the pandemic has revealed that without meaningful biosecurity measures, economic prosperity is at stake.
Both the countries agreed to continue working together for common objectives in the United Nations and other multilateral fora.
The two leaders agreed to further cooperate in regional and sub-regional platform on a priority basis. To this end, they agreed to make BIMSTEC an even more effective vehicle for inter-regional cooperation to achieve the aim of collective prosperity of all member countries.