Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will make an overnight visit to Bangladesh on 26 March to join celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh's freedom in 1971, people aware of the matter said.
The two-day trip to Dhaka will be PM Modi's first foreign visit in 15 months and is seen to reflect New Delhi's emphasis on its ties with Bangladesh which PM Modi has described as "an important pillar" of India's neighbourhood first' policy.
He last travelled abroad In November 2019 and like everyone else, had to scrap his travel plans over the last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
PM Modi will be the chief guest at the main event organised by the Sheikh Hasina government to commemorate Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declaring erstwhile East Pakistan as an independent country, Bangladesh, on 26 March, 1971. India sided with Bangladesh and helped defeat Pakistani forces who eventually surrendered on 16 December, 1971.
External affairs minister S Jaishankar was in Dhaka last week to prepare for PM Modi visit called the deepening strategic ties between the two countries as a "360-degree partnership" and stressed that PM Modi's visit will surely be a "very memorable" visit.
The visit comes at a time, Indian officials said, when there was tremendous goodwill for the Indian government and its people in Bangladesh on account of New Delhi going the extra mile to make the coronavirus vaccine available to the neighbouring country.
New Delhi has supplied 9 million doses of Covid vaccine to Dhaka including 2 million doses as a gift from the people of India. The remaining 7 million doses were sent on a commercial basis after Bangladesh decided to rely on the Indian vaccines rather than the vaccine pushed by Beijing.
"India has kept the promise that it had made," a senior government official said, a reference to PM Modi's assurance to Sheikh Hasina during their virtual summit in December. PM Modi had assured her that the vaccines will be made available to Bangladesh as and when India produces them, and also offered a partnership in vaccine production.
It was at this summit that Sheikh Hasina had declared that "India is our true friend".
Officials said it was on account of New Delhi delivering on its commitment that Jaishankar returned from Dhaka last week with the sense that Bangladesh's opposition parties, which are often critical or suspicious of New Delhi, appreciated India's move.
There are not big-ticket agreements planned during PM Modi's visit. The two countries had signed seven agreements in areas ranging from hydrocarbons to agriculture at the Modi-Hasina summit in December.
Tomorrow, he will inaugurate via video conference, the "Maitri Setu", a bridge built over the Feni river, between India and Bangladesh.