Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said connectivity could take the front seat in upcoming days in the Bangladesh-India relationship.
"If you ask me about next 20 years, let us look at connectivity. If Bangladesh and India get the connectivity right, the entire geo-economics of the region will change," Jaishankar told the media after a discussion with his counterpart AK Abdul Momen in Dhaka Thursday.
On Thursday at 10am, the Indian minister reached the capital on a day-long visit to prepare the ground for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's upcoming visit to Bangladesh.
Momen received Jaishankar at the Kurmitola air force base. Then they led their respective sides at a bilateral meeting held at state guesthouse Padma and took stock of the progress of relations between the two countries.
After a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Jaishankar wrapped up his visit and left Dhaka for Delhi at 9.35 pm.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to pay a two-day visit to Dhaka on 26 March to attend the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the golden jubilee of independence.
Besides, Bangladesh and India are jointly celebrating their 50 years of bilateral relations this year.
Earlier, Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina held a virtual meeting on 17 December last year.
At the press briefing after the bilateral meeting, Jaishankar said during the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the two leaders will be discussing bilateral issues such as transport and connectivity, energy, development projects and water sharing of joint rivers.
However, the Indian external affairs minister could not assure Bangladesh of the much-anticipated Teesta water-sharing deal.
"We had a discussion on Teesta. But, you know India's position and that did not change," he said.
When replying to a query on border killings, he emphasised reducing crimes in the bordering areas and said India prefers the "no crime, no death" policy.
'Connectivity is productivity'
Jaishankar at the press briefing said, "Your foreign minister [Momen] told me quoting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that connectivity is productivity; it really impressed me."
The Indian minister said they talked about involving a third country, preferably Japan, to be a major stakeholder in the bilateral engagement in terms of connectivity as both Dhaka and New Delhi have a very good relationship with Tokyo.
"Japan is involved [as well] in connectivity projects in the Bay of Bengal [region]," he noted.
The Indian external affairs minister mentioned the second priority is the people-to-people connection.
"I would say on human aspects; that is people to people health, education, cultural connection. Even the pandemic has provided an opportunity to reaffirm our friendship. Bangladesh is the largest recipient of 'Made-in-India' vaccine."
No crime, no death on borders
Jaishankar said one first needs to understand the reasons behind the border killings. He said every death is regrettable. But, the problem lies in the crimes that take place in border areas.
"Our shared objective is 'no crime, no death' on borders. I am sure, if we get the policy right, we can address this problem together effectively," he said.
Will be a memorable visit
The Indian minister said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Dhaka visit will be a very memorable one as it will be the premier's first travel outside India since the coronavirus pandemic.
Remembering Modi's last visit to Bangladesh in 2015, the external affairs minister said, "I would say it was a transformational visit to our relationship. India and Bangladesh opened a new chapter as they settled the 41-year-old boundary dispute during that visit."
"We treat Bangladesh as a key neighbour and a valued partner not only in South Asia but also in the Indo-Pacific region. This is why we are working on expanding our partnership in all dimensions ranging among security, trade, transport, connectivity, culture, people to people ties, energy, joint development of shared resources and defence ties," said Jaishankar.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said they discussed a wide range of bilateral issues as well as bilateral interests that the two countries can take forward in future.
"Covid cooperation, connectivity, trade, water, security, border and lines of credit are some of the areas we discussed," he added.
Earlier on Tuesday, State Minister for foreign affairs M Shahriar Alam said during Modi's visit, the two premiers are likely to flag off a direct passenger train service between Dhaka and New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal.
Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Vikram Doraiswami told the media last month that the two neighbouring countries were working on finalising a number of projects, which would be inaugurated during the Indian prime minister's visit to Bangladesh.
The Indian envoy also hinted that a Teesta water-sharing deal between the two countries might need more time.
Issues among neighbours should be resolved thru talks
During a meeting with the Indian External Affairs Minister, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the existing problems among neighbouring countries need to be resolved through discussions.
PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters after the meeting.
During the meeting, the Indian minister praised Sheikh Hasina's leadership for the graduation of Bangladesh from the LDC group.
"It is a great achievement. The development of Bangladesh is miraculous," Jaishankar was quoted as saying, reports UNB.
The prime minister appreciated the support received from India on the Covid-19 vaccine.
She said the economy of Bangladesh is progressing despite the Covid-19 pandemic coupled with recent floods and cyclones. Its remittance inflow has also increased during the period.
Jaishankar reaffirmed India's commitment to assist Bangladesh in facing the Covid-19 situation. "We all of this region face difficulties due to the Covid-19 pandemic," he was quoted as saying.
Jaishankar said he had a fruitful meeting with his Bangladeshi counterpart Dr AK Abdul Momen over Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Bangladesh to join the Golden Jubilee celebrations.