India and Bangladesh will create a new mechanism to regularly review the progress of bilateral development projects, with five such ventures, including an oil pipeline and three cross-border rail links, set to be completed in 2021.
The setting up of the high-level monitoring mechanism to review ongoing projects was discussed during foreign secretary Harsh Shringla's meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka on Tuesday, external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.
People familiar with developments said the monitoring mechanism will be jointly chaired by the Indian envoy in Dhaka and the Bangladesh foreign secretary. It will be on the lines of a similar mechanism India has created with Nepal, the people said on condition of anonymity.
India's developmental assistance for Bangladesh and connectivity and power projects were discussed during the meeting between Hasina and Shringla, who made an unannounced two-day visit to take forward the bilateral relationship. Shringla also delivered a message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Hasina.
"Several of these projects, including the Rampal Maitree power plant, India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline, and rail links between Akhaura-Agartala and Chilahati-Haldibari and Khulna-Mongla rail line are expected to be completed next year," said Srivastava.
India also proposed that the next meeting of the Joint Consultative Commission at the level of the foreign ministers should be convened shortly to review the entire gamut of bilateral ties and the development projects, he said.
India's proposal to launch a travel air bubble between the two countries with limited flights for official, business and medical travellers was appreciated by the Bangladesh side, Srivastava said.
The two sides also discussed the celebrations of the 100th birth anniversary of Mujibur Rahman in 2020 and 50 years of the liberation of Bangladesh and the establishment of diplomatic ties in 2021. India plans to issue a commemorative stamp on Rahman during Mujib Barsho and the two sides propose to hold joint events.
India has also provided Covid-19 related assistance to Bangladesh and organised capacity-building courses for Bangladeshi medical personnel following the video conference of Saarc leaders and creation of the Saarc Emergency Response Fund. Bangladesh has committed $1.5 million for the fund.
"In the last few years, India and Bangladesh have amicably resolved complex issues, including the land and maritime borders, and have taken several initiatives to boost connectivity and trade, including commencement of movement of Indian cargo from Agartala to Kolkata via Chattogram, expansion of the scope of the protocol that governs trade and transit on inland waterways, India's gifting of 10 locomotives to Bangladesh, and introduction of parcel and container train services between the two countries," Srivastava said.
Shringla's visit was useful in discussing specific initiatives in key areas of mutual interest and also reflected the priority that India accords to Bangladesh as part of its "neighbourhood first" policy, he added.