Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina followed up the bonhomie and goodwill exuded on Bangladesh’s National Day with a bilateral meeting on Saturday that saw the two countries signing five agreements in areas ranging from sports and disaster management to trade remedial measures. A Modi-Hasina “tete-a-tete” preceded the formal talks.
The meeting though again saw Hasina emphasising the need to sign the interim Teesta water-sharing pact which West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee continues to oppose vehemently. The two sides also discussed issues related to the Rohingya, with India saying it was happy to facilitate “safe, speedy and sustainable” return of the forcibly displaced people from Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
“PM Sheikh Hasina did refer to the Teesta issue. PM Modi reiterated India’s sincere and continued effort to conclude the agreement in consultation with relevant stakeholders,’’ said foreign secretary Harsh Shringla.
Shringla said the Indian side also requested Bangladesh for early finalisation of the draft of the interim agreement for sharing of the Feni river water. The results of the West Bengal election could have a direct bearing on the Teesta pact.
“She (Hasina) underscored that to alleviate the sufferings and save the livelihoods of millions of people dependent on the Teesta river basin, it is necessary that Bangladesh receives its share of the Teesta waters, the draft agreement of which has been agreed upon by both governments in January 2011,’’ said a joint statement.
The delay in signing the Teesta agreement remains one of the few thorny issues in bilateral ties. Hasina had also raised the issue with Modi in their virtual summit last year in December. Showing no sign of softening her position, Banerjee said earlier this month that her state can share water only if it had enough for itself.
On security cooperation, recognising terrorism remains a threat to global peace and security, both sides reiterated their strong commitment to eliminating terrorism in “all its forms and manifestations’’. Modi expressed India’s appreciation of the cooperation extended by Bangladesh on security issues.
The two leaders inaugurated three border “haats”, laid the foundation stone for five packages out of a total eight of Rooppur Power Evacuation Project and also jointly inaugurated Rabindra Bhawan facilities in Kuthibari, said the joint statement. The discussion on Saturday concluded efforts on both sides to accelerate cooperation across varied fields aimed at closely enmeshing Indian and Bangladeshi development strategies. India also gifted 109 ambulances to Bangladesh.
Significantly, while Bangladesh thanked India for gifting 3.2 million Covid-19 vaccine doses, it also requested India to facilitate regular delivery of the remaining tranches of vaccine procured by Bangladesh from the Serum Institute of India.