India has offered free transit to Bangladesh for exporting its products to third countries as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Prime Minister Narendra Modi have reiterated their strong commitment to strengthening bilateral relations further. “Indian has offered free transit via its territory to Bangladesh for exporting its products to third countries through specified Land Customs Stations/Airports/Seaports,” according to a joint statement issued today (07 September 2022). In this regard, the Indian side invited Bangladesh business community for using its port infrastructure for transshipment to third countries.
Mentioning that India has also been providing free transit to Bangladesh for exporting its products to Nepal and Bhutan, it said that Bangladesh also requested rail connectivity with Bhutan through the newly inaugurated Chilahati–Haldibari route, and India agreed to consider the request, based on its viability and feasibility. To make this and other cross border rail links viable, the joint statement said India requested Bangladesh to remove port restrictions, inter alia at the Chilahati–Haldibari crossing. The two leaders also agreed to expedite efforts to improve bilateral and sub-regional connectivity through early operationalisation of the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement.
India requested Bangladesh for cooperation for initiating new sub-regional connectivity projects including a highway from Hili in the West Bengal to Mahendraganj in Meghalaya through Bangladesh and in this regard, proposed preparation of a Detailed Project Report. In the same spirit, Bangladesh reiterated its eagerness to partner in the ongoing initiative of the India – Myanmar – Thailand trilateral highway project. Both Bangladesh and Indian premiers welcomed the recent finalization of a Joint Feasibility Study, which recommended that Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) will be beneficial for both countries.
They directed the trade officials on both sides to start negotiations within the calendar year 2022 and to complete these at the earliest, in time for Bangladesh’s final graduation from LDC status. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi have reiterated their strong commitment to eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. They decided to further strengthen their cooperation to counter and prevent the spread of terrorism, violent extremism and radicalisation in the region and beyond. Noting with satisfaction that the number of deaths due to incidents along the border has significantly reduced, both sides agreed to work towards bringing the number down to zero, according to the joint statement. Both sides noted with appreciation the stepped up efforts by the two border guarding forces against smuggling of arms, narcotics and fake currency and to prevent trafficking, particularly of women and children.
Both prime ministers held a restricted meeting and te^te-a`-te^te followed by delegation level talks on Tuesday. The two leaders expressed satisfaction at the excellent state of bilateral relations, based on deep historical and fraternal ties and shared values of democracy and pluralism, which is reflected in an all-encompassing bilateral partnership, based on sovereignty, equality, trust and understanding that transcends even a strategic partnership. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is paying a state visit to India from September 5-8 at the invitation of her Indian counterpart Modi. During the visit, she called on President of India Droupadi Murmu and Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Minister of Development of North Eastern Region G. Kishan Reddy called on her. Sheikh Hasina’s programme also includes launching of “Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Student Scholarship” for 200 descendants of Indian Armed Forces personnel martyred and critically injured during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971. She also addressed a business event, jointly organized by Indian and Bangladesh business communities today. The joint statement said that both Bangladesh and Indian Prime Ministers held discussions on the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation, including political and security cooperation, defence, border management, trade and connectivity, water resources, power and energy, development cooperation, cultural and people-to-people links.
They also agreed to collaborate in new areas of cooperation, such as, environment, climate change, cyber security, ICT, space technology, green energy and blue economy, it added. They further discussed the various aspects of regional and global issues of interest. Keeping in mind the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and the supply chain disruptions due to global developments, the leaders emphasized the need for greater collaboration in the spirit of friendship and partnership for prosperity and development of the region. Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi underscored the importance of implementing bilateral and sub-regional rail, road, and other connectivity initiatives. Both sides welcomed the ongoing bilateral initiatives, such as, conversion to dual-gauge of Tongi-Akhaura line, supply of railway rolling stock, capacity building for the personnel of Bangladesh Railway, sharing of IT solutions for improved services of Bangladesh Railway etc.
Bangladesh and India also welcomed the new initiatives, namely, Kaunia-Lalmonirhat-Mogalghat-New Gitaldaha link, establishing a link between Hili and Birampur, upgradation of track and signaling systems and railway stations along the Benapole-Jashore line, link restoration between Burimari and Changrabandha, construction of a container depot at Sirajganj etc. The two countries agreed to explore funding of these projects through a range of financial instruments under the bilateral development cooperation. The two leaders appreciated the growth in bilateral trade, with India emerging as the largest export destination for Bangladesh in Asia.
The Bangladesh side requested the Indian side for predictable supply of the essential food commodities from India such as rice, wheat, sugar, onion, ginger and garlic. The Indian side conveyed that Bangladesh’s requests will be favourably considered based on prevalent supply conditions in India, and all efforts will be made in this regard. Recognizing that peaceful management of India-Bangladesh border is a shared priority, the two leaders directed the officials to expedite work to complete all pending developmental works within 150 yards of the Zero Line, including fencing starting with the Tripura sector with the objective of maintaining a tranquil and crime-free border. Recalling earlier discussions, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reiterated Bangladesh’s long pending request for concluding the interim agreement on the sharing of the waters of the Teesta River, the draft of which was finalized in 2011.
Both the leaders also directed the officials to work together to address issues such as pollution in rivers and to improve riverine environment and river navigability in respect of common rivers. In the spirit of enhancing sub-regional cooperation, the two leaders agreed to expeditiously implement projects to connect the two countries’ power grids synchronously, including through the proposed high capacity 765 KV transmission line from Katihar (Bihar) to Bornagar (Assam) through Parbatipur in Bangladesh, to be made through a suitably-structured India-Bangladesh Joint Venture for a Special Purpose Vehicle. It was agreed to strengthen sub-regional cooperation in the power sector. The Bangladesh side requested for import of power from Nepal and Bhutan through India. The Indian side informed that the guidelines for the same are already in place in India. The two leaders reviewed the progress made on the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline that will contribute to addressing energy demands of Bangladesh. They expressed hope that the project would be completed at the earliest.
Bangladesh also requested the India to assist in meeting its domestic requirement for petroleum products, and India agreed to facilitate discussions between the authorized agencies of both sides. Both leaders expressed satisfaction at the robust cooperation between two sides in development partnership. Reiterating the importance of facilitating trade between the two countries, they stressed the urgent need for up-gradation of infrastructure and facilities at the Land Customs Stations/Land Ports, and for removal of port restrictions and other non-tariff barriers at identified Land Custom Stations. The two leaders also expressed satisfaction at the intensification of bilateral defence ties, and agreed for early finalization of projects under the Line of Credit for defence, which would be beneficial for both the countries.
Welcoming the close cooperation between the two countries during the COVID-19 pandemic including through Vaccine Maitri and Oxygen express trains to Bangladesh, and Bangladesh’s gift of medicines to India, the two Leaders emphasized the need to increase people-to-people ties.
Both Leaders looked forward to the early launch of the jointly-produced film on Bangabandhu (Mujib: the Making of A Nation). They also agreed to work towards other initiatives including operationalisation of “Shadhinota Shorok”- the historic road from Mujib Nagar in Bangladesh to the India-Bangladesh border in Nadia, West Bengal, and production of a documentary on the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971. The Bangladesh side also proposed joint compilation of rare video footage on the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971.
Both sides acknowledged the importance of leveraging the potential of new and emerging areas of cooperation and directed authorities on both sides to augment cooperation in cutting edge areas of peaceful use of outer space, green energy, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and technology enabled services in finance, health and education. With regard to the regional situation, India expressed appreciation at the generosity of Bangladesh in sheltering and providing humanitarian assistance to over a million persons forcibly displaced from the Rakhine State in Myanmar and underlined its continuing commitment to support both Bangladesh and Myanmar, as the only country that is neighbour of both, in the effort to ensure safe, sustainable, and expeditious return of these forcibly displaced people to their homeland.
The two sides underscored the need to work for strengthened regional cooperation through regional organizations. The Indian side appreciated the contribution of Bangladesh in hosting the BIMSTEC Secretariat and developing its infrastructure. India reiterated its support to Bangladesh in its capacity as the Chair of Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).