Bangladesh and India have agreed to conduct phase-3 trials of the Covid-19 vaccine in Bangladesh soon after the latter launches the trials there.
Reiterating the commitment of India to prioritise the supply of Covid-19 vaccines, Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar emphasised the importance of Bangladesh in India's "Neighbourhood First" policy.
In this context, the Indian ministers directed their officials to expedite exchange of required information regarding Phase-III testing, vaccine distribution, co-production and delivery in Bangladesh, according to the India's external affairs ministry's media release issued after the 6th Bangladesh-India Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) meeting held virtually yesterday.
According to the Bangladesh foreign ministry press release, both sides discussed collaboration in the health sector, especially in terms of delivery, distribution and co-production of Covid-19 vaccine.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen appreciated India's commitment with regards to prioritising Bangladesh for the supply of the vaccine in the near future.
Bangladesh has also sought early signing of the long-pending Teesta water sharing agreement with India.
Both countries have also agreed to resolve water-sharing issues of common rivers and bring down border killings to zero, Dr AK Abdul Momen told reporters at his office after the meeting.
"We have positive responses from the Indian side …we are always hopeful about signing the Teesta treaty," the foreign minister said.
Dr AK Abdul Momen led the Bangladesh side while Dr S Jaishankar led the Indian team at the virtual meeting.
Secretaries and high-level representatives from different ministries and divisions of the two countries joined the meeting.
During the meeting, Foreign ministry officials said that the two ministers reviewed and discussed the entire gamut of bilateral relations, including cooperation on connectivity, security, political issues, development, trade and investment, power and energy sector and people-to-people contacts.
They also discussed a wide range of issues, including water sharing, trade, line of credit, border killings, air bubble, pandemic and Rohingya crisis during the bilateral talk.
Apart from the Teesta issue, they discussed the draft of potential water sharing treaty of six transboundary rivers – Monu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gomti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.
They reviewed the possibility of holding the stalled Joint River Commission (JRC) meeting between Bangladesh and India soon as the last meeting was held in New Delhi in 2010.
"It [JRC] will be held very soon," Momen said.
The JCC also reviewed the projects under the Indian lines of credit, and Dhaka put emphasis on expediting the implementation process of the projects.
Enhancing cooperation in the energy and power sector through facilitation of tripartite power-energy cooperation among Bangladesh-India-Nepal and Bangladesh-India-Bhutan was also discussed.
The meeting decided to form a high-level monitoring committee to regularly review the progress of the ongoing projects, the foreign minister said.
Momen said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian premier Narendra Modi are set to hold a virtual or in-person meeting, conditional on the pandemic situation in December.
Dhaka sought enhanced cooperation from India over the Rohingya crisis while India reiterated its position on safe, secure and sustainable Rohingya repatriation.
"So, we requested Indian cooperation here [resolution from UNSG]," Momen said, adding India has promised to cooperate with Bangladesh over the issue.
The foreign minister said they agreed to bring down border killing to zero. "We do not want any deaths along the frontier, and it is a shame for friendly countries like Bangladesh and India," he added.
During Indian Foreign Secretary, Harsh Vardhan Shringla's recent Dhaka visit, Bangladesh expressed deep concern over the rise in killings along the Indo-Bangladesh border by India's Border Security Force (BSF) during the first half of this year.
Bangladesh flagged this as a violation of all bilateral agreements and said that the BSF must be duly urged to exercise maximum restraint.
Following the concerns raised, a DG-level meeting between Border Guard Bangladesh and BSF was held in the capital this month where the Indian side agreed to use lethal weapons as "last resort" to check criminal activities on frontiers.
Both sides expressed satisfaction that even during the current situation induced by the pandemic Covid-19, Bangladesh and India have maintained robust engagement and dialogue.
The two sides discussed collaboration in the health sector, especially in terms of supply, delivery, distribution and co-production of Covid-19 vaccine.
Bangladesh appreciated India's commitment to prioritise Bangladesh for the supply of the vaccine in the future.
Bangladesh thanked India for the concessions being provided under South Asian Free Trade Area (Safta).
The foreign minister requested his Indian counterpart to look into the export of essential commodities by India, such as onions, since this impacts Bangladesh's domestic market. Bangladesh also stressed on the equitable application of investment policies by India.
Both sides agreed to jointly celebrate the golden jubilee of the Independence of Bangladesh and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
They also discussed joint programmes next year to celebrate the ongoing Mujib Borsho, marking the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and the 50th anniversary of the independence of Bangladesh.
After the discussion, both ministers jointly unveiled two commemorative stamps as part of the celebration of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
During the 5th India-Bangladesh JCC meeting held on February 8 last year, four memoranda of understanding were signed to further strengthen the existing multifaceted cooperation between the two neighbouring countries.