Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday reiterated Delhi's commitment and continued effort to complete the Interim Water Sharing arrangement for the Teesta River at the Bangladesh-India virtual summit and assured that India would support effective and timely delivery of Covid-19 vaccines.
At the summit, both sides agreed to promote two-way investment, technology transfer, joint studies and capacity building in hydrocarbons, according to the joint statement issued following the first Dhaka-Delhi virtual summit.
Bangladesh and India signed seven bilateral documents at the virtual Summit to elevate relations to the next level through deeper cooperation and solidarity.
The seven documents signed are: Framework of Understanding on Cooperation in Hydrocarbon Sector; Framework Agreement on High Impact Community Development Projects; Protocol on Trans-boundary elephant conservation; MoU on Supply of Equipment and Improvement of Garbage/Solid Waste Disposal Ground for Barishal City Corporation; MoU on Cooperation in the Field of Agriculture; an MoU between the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum, Dhaka and the National Museum in New Delhi; and lastly, the Terms of Reference for an India-Bangladesh CEOs Forum.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi jointly inaugurated the resumption of a pre-1965 connectivity line 'Chilahati-Haldibari rail link,' 'Bangabandhu-Bapu Digital Exhibition' that is being hosted from New Delhi to honour the contributions of the two nations' respective fathers, and unveiled a commemorative stamp issued by the Postal Department of India in honour of Bangabandhu.
India invited Bangladesh to join the New Development Bank (so-called BRICS bank) and the Bangladesh Prime Minister expressed interest in it.
Narendra Modi accepted the invitation of Sheikh Hasina to visit Bangladesh next year for the celebration of the Mujib Borsho, the upcoming 50th anniversaries of the Liberation of Bangladesh and the establishment of India-Bangladesh bilateral relations.
"As the economies of both nations rise, the two sides agreed to promote two-way investment, technology transfer, joint studies and capacity building in hydrocarbons," said the joint statement.
The India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline currently being built to supply High-speed diesel from Siliguri in India to Parbatipur in Bangladesh will add to this. A Framework of Understanding on cooperation in Hydrocarbon sector was signed at the summit.
Other possible avenues for cooperation in energy are also being pursued, in electric power transmission, generation, in gas and refined petroleum product supply and in exploration for hydrocarbons.
Narendra Modi reiterated India's commitment and continued effort to complete the Interim Water Sharing arrangement for the Teesta River.
Modi and PM Hasina underscored the need for early conclusion of Frameworks for Interim Agreement on sharing the waters of six other joint rivers, namely, Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.
In this regard, they agreed to schedule the Joint River Commission meetings at the earliest.
In keeping with India's "Neighbourhood First" policy, Modi assured Hasina that India would support effective and timely delivery of Covid-19 vaccines being produced and developed in India, for Bangladesh.
Pharma companies on both sides have already arranged plans for supply of vaccines. The prospect of cooperation in production will also be explored.
Enhancing cross-border cooperation
The two leaders jointly inaugurated the restored Chilahati–Haldibari rail route re-linking Bangladesh with North Bengal in India.
This is the fifth of the six cross-border rail routes, severed in 1965 by the then Pakistani Government, to be restored. Both leaders continue to priorities connectivity for easing the lives of people on both sides, and to promote travel, tourism and business partnerships.
Rail route for trade
Rail links have proven to be efficient, environmentally less impactful and reliable during lockdowns related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
With the support of Bangladesh and Indian railways, critical food supply chains were maintained, especially during Ramadan this year. Diversification of services was also enabled, including parcel train service, automobile cargo and container train service.
Increasing connectivity by rail, roads, air and waterways between Bangladesh and India will promote the development of Chilahati, Sirajganj, Ashuganj, Darshana, Ramgarh, and Cumilla as new trade hubs, especially for Bangladesh's trade with Nepal and Bhutan.
The prospect of the commercial use of Bangladeshi trucks to carry goods to India's Northeast, both from Bangladesh, and from India via Bangladeshi ports, has also been specifically recognised.
New areas for partnership
IT, including Cyber Security, e-Governance and digital economy; Industry 4.0 and AI; Nuclear Energy; Space including satellite construction and services; clean energy; all proposed for further dialogue.
Stressing that border management is a shared responsibility, both the leaders emphasised coordinated and joint patrols to create a crime-free border.
For its part, India's BSF will continue to exercise maximum restraint and follow a strict protocol of escalation of actions, with the commitment that the use of lethal force would only be in the last resort, in self-defence.
The Indian Prime Minister reiterated the need for safe, speedy and sustainable repatriation of the forcibly displaced persons to their homes in the Rakhine State of Myanmar.
He appreciated the generosity of Bangladesh in hosting a large number of displaced persons from Rakhine State in Myanmar and recognised the numerous socio-economic challenges as a result.
Modi mentioned that India has extended five tranches of humanitarian assistance to alleviate this challenge.
"India is also undertaking socio-economic development measures in Rakhine region under its Rakhine State Development Programme (RSDP), to support an enabling environment to start repatriation."
Cherishing shared history
Both the nations will jointly celebrate Mujib Borsho, and the 50th Anniversary of Liberation of Bangladesh. To honour the memory of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who is also a hero to the Indian people, the Indian side released a Commemorative Stamp on Bangabandhu.
In a unique tribute to the fathers of the two nations, Bangladesh and India are jointly commissioning a Bangabandhu-Bapu Digital Exhibition which chronicles the lives, struggle and their vision in leading their country's quest for justice and independence.
This will be a travelling exhibition, to be jointly showcased in India, Bangladesh and in various other countries, as well as at the United Nations.
Both countries will also coordinate to organise commemorative activities to celebrate 50 years of liberation and bilateral relations next year, separately and in partnership. This includes a biographical film on Bangabandhu, to be shot in Bangladesh and India early next year, by the acclaimed director Shyam Benegal.
Bilateral Trade and Export
Bilateral trade has been growing steadily, with Bangladesh's exports having stayed above the US$ 1 billion mark—making India only the second Asian country with over $1 billion of Bangladesh imports.
The trade deficit reduced by over 26 percent in favour of Bangladesh. New logistics options like railways and waterways helped ensure that trade was not affected by the onset of Covid-19.
To boost Bangladeshi exports to India, and to increase the overall trade, bearing in mind Bangladesh's graduation out of LDC status, a Study on Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) has been commissioned.
This would provide the framework for a free-trade arrangement on goods and services, and mutual facilitation on investment. This would help increase market share for Bangladesh in India, while expanding the overall trade.
Cooperation in Agricultural science and exchange of technical know-how between Bangladesh and India is critical, given the centrality of agriculture in both economies and societies. An MoU on cooperation in the field of Agriculture has been renewed.
Both leaders jointly inaugurated two High Impact Community Development Projects – one to improve the conservation of social, cultural, environmental and heritage infrastructure at Rajshahi City, and another for developing quality infrastructure for the Khalishpur Collegiate Girls' School at Khulna City.
An MoU on the supply of equipment and improvement of garbage/solid waste disposal for Barisal City, to be funded by India, was also signed at the summit.
Defence Cooperation including use of the $500 million Line of Credit; Shipbuilding, Joint R&D for defence products
Cooperation to expand transportation solutions within the BBIN region; also cooperation in cross-border energy trade, being facilitated by new Indian Cross Border Energy guidelines.
Framework Agreement on High Impact Community Development Projects
This 10-year Agreement allows for projects amounting to Tk 500 million, double of what was previously admitted, for undertaking multi-faceted projects aimed at increased socio-economic development for local communities, particularly in the areas of education, health and sanitation, water treatment, urban development, conservation of environmental, sports and cultural heritage, women empowerment, child welfare, community development and livelihood activity under grant assistance from the Government of India.
An MoU was signed on the Supply of Equipment and Improvement of Garbage/Solid Waste Disposal Ground in Barishal City Corporation. The Tk 24.7-crore project for cooperation on civic service delivery in Barishal City aims at improvement and construction of garbage/solid waste disposal, ground related facilities, solid waste management, collecting, treating and disposal and supply of equipment for collection of garbage.
Terms of Reference of India-Bangladesh CEOs Forum
A high-level CEO forum between the Top CEOs of India and Bangladesh has been constituted to provide policy level inputs for enhancing bilateral trade and investment as well as exports to third countries.
Textiles, pharmaceuticals, leather, agriculture and food processing value chains, automobiles, services sector will be the major focus areas.
The delegation from Bangladesh included Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, Home Minister Asaduzzman Khan, Commerce Minister Tipu Munhi, Minister of Water Resources Zaheed Farooque, Railway Minister Nurul Islam Sujon, PM's Adviser for Security Affairs Maj Gen (Retd) Tareque Ahmed Siddique, State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam and State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak.
The delegation from India included External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla.