New Delhi: At the invitation of Prime Minister of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, H.E. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of the Republic of India, H.E. Shri Narendra Modi, paid a State Visit to Bangladesh from 26 to 27 March 2021 to join the celebrations of the Golden Jubilee of the Independence of Bangladesh, the Birth Centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 50 years of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Bangladesh. The visit symbolised the partnership of half-a-century between India and Bangladesh that has strengthened, matured and evolved as a model for bilateral relations for the entire region.
During the visit, Prime Minister of India called on H.E. Mr. Md. Abdul Hamid, Hon’ble President of Bangladesh on 27 March 2021. The Indian Prime Minister joined the National Day programme, Golden Jubilee celebrations and Mujib Borsho celebration at the National Parade Ground as the Guest of Honour on 26 March 2021. Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen called on the Prime Minister of India on 26 March 2021.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid a wreath at the National Martyrs’ Memorial at Savar as a mark of respect to the memory and contribution of the great freedom fighters of Bangladesh. He also paid rich tribute and respect to the memory of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the Bangabandhu Mausoleum in Tungipara, Gopalganj.
Both Prime Ministers held a tête-à-tête on 27 March 2021 which was followed by delegation level talks. Both the talks were marked by great warmth and cordiality. The two leaders expressed satisfaction at the excellent state of bilateral relations, based on deep historical and fraternal ties, which reflect an all-encompassing bilateral partnership based on equality, trust and understanding that transcends even a strategic partnership.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his first ever foreign visit to Bangladesh in-person during the ongoing COVID pandemic to join the celebrations. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her deep appreciation and gratitude for the wholehearted support extended by the Government and people of India, during the critical days of Bangladesh’s Liberation War. Both Prime Ministers underscored the need for preserving the memory and legacy of the Great Liberation War. Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked the Government of Bangladesh for the decision to establish a memorial at Ashuganj in remembrance of the supreme sacrifices made by the valiant members of the Indian Armed Forces during Bangladesh’s War of Independence in 1971.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his heartfelt congratulations to the people of Bangladesh on the occasion of Mujib Borsho, 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s Independence and establishment of diplomatic relations and appreciated Bangladesh’s outstanding achievements in human development, poverty alleviation, counter terrorism, and remarkable economic progress made under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her appreciation for India’s continuing bilateral cooperation in various sectors.
The two leaders expressed satisfaction on the progress of various decisions taken during the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Delhi in October 2019 and the Virtual Summit on 17 December 2020. Both sides also recalled the successful holding of the Sixth Meeting of the Joint Consultative Commission held in September 2020 and the visit of the External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar to Dhaka on 4 March 2021.
The two Prime Ministers noted with satisfaction the continued exchange of high-level visits which have helped frame a better understanding on both sides on the various areas of cooperation. They also appreciated the regular holding of meetings of sectoral institutional mechanisms for sustaining the momentum of bilateral relations, particularly during the COVID period.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, one of the greatest leaders of modern times, will be remembered for his courage and indelible contribution to Bangladesh’s emergence as a sovereign country. He also recalled the contribution of Bangabandhu in nurturing peace, security and development in the region. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina thanked India for conferring Gandhi Peace Prize for the year 2020 on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in recognition of his outstanding contributions towards social, economic and political transformation of Bangladesh through non-violent and other Gandhian methods.
Both Prime Ministers jointly inaugurated the Bangabandhu – Bapu Digital Exhibition in Dhaka, which celebrates the life and legacy of these iconic leaders. The two Prime Ministers affirmed that the legacy and ideals of the two great leaders would continue to inspire the people worldwide, particularly the youth, against oppression.
To mark the 50th anniversary of India-Bangladesh friendship, both sides released respective commemorative postage stamps. It was decided to commemorate 06 December as Maitri Diwas, the day when India recognized Bangladesh in the year 1971. The Indian side announced the establishment of Bangabandhu Chair at the University of Delhi. In view of the 50th anniversary of the Independence of Bangladesh as well as the establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties, both sides have agreed to jointly commemorate these epochal events in 19 select countries.
Both sides noted with satisfaction that the filming of the biopic on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, under the direction of Indian film director Shyam Benegal, has commenced and is expected to be completed according to schedule. Both sides stressed on the need to commence work on the Liberation War documentary at the earliest.
Water Resources Cooperation
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. She 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 fair share of the Teesta waters, the draft agreement of which has already been agreed upon by both Governments in January 2011. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated India’s sincere commitment and continued efforts to conclude this agreement, in consultation with the relevant stakeholders. The Indian side also requested for early finalization of the draft of the interim agreement for sharing of water of Feni River, pending with the Bangladesh side which had been agreed upon by both sides in 2011.
The two leaders directed their respective Ministries of Water Resources to work towards an early conclusion of the Framework of Interim Agreement on sharing of waters of six common rivers, namely, Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.
Trade for Growth
To enhance trade between the two countries, both Prime Ministers underscored the need for removal of non-tariff barriers. Bangladesh side requested for lifting the new policy of Indian Customs stipulating verification of certificates of origin issued from Bangladesh. The Indian side conveyed that under the provisions of the new Customs rules, in the event of a conflict between a provision of these rules and rules of origin of a trade agreement, the provisions of the rules of origin of the trade agreement shall prevail. Further, for bilateral trade to flourish, both leaders stressed the need for predictability of trade policies, regulations and procedures.
Both Prime Ministers stressed the urgent need for up-gradation of infrastructure and facilities of the Land Customs Stations (LCSs) / Land Ports in a coordinated manner to facilitate trade between the two countries.
Development Partnership and Cooperation in Power and Energy
Both sides took note of the first meeting of the High-Level Monitoring Committee and directed the Committee to provide recommendations for the expeditious execution of projects under the Lines of Credit.
Both sides expressed satisfaction at the robust cooperation in the power and energy sector, including between the private sectors. It was agreed to strengthen sub- regional cooperation, including with Nepal and Bhutan and in this regard cooperation in energy was underscored. The Indian side emphasized that finalization of regulations and guidelines for cross border trade in electricity would increase sub- regional cooperation. India requested early finalization of modalities for implementation of the Katihar – Parbotipur – Bornagar cross border electricity interconnection. Both sides welcomed the establishment of a study team in this regard. Both sides took stock of progress in the implementation of the India Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline and unit-1 of the Maitree Super Thermal Power Project and expressed hope that these projects would get commissioned soon.
Recalling that the Framework of Understanding on Cooperation in the Hydrocarbon Sector had been signed in December 2021, both leaders urged the relevant authorities to implement the institutional arrangement at the earliest, which will further enhance bilateral cooperation in this important sector.
Cooperation in Public Health
Both sides exchanged views on the situation of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in their respective countries and expressed satisfaction at the manner in which sustained engagement between the two countries has been maintained during this ongoing crisis. Bangladesh side thanked the Government of India for gifting 3.2 million doses of Oxford Astra Zeneca Covishield vaccine made in India and appreciated the prompt delivery of the first batch of 5 million doses. Bangladesh side requested the Indian side to facilitate regular delivery of the remaining tranches of vaccine procured by Bangladesh from the Serum Institute of India. India assured its best cooperation in accordance with its domestic exigencies and international commitments.
Both Prime Ministers acknowledged the importance of deeper collaboration between the two countries in the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic on public health sector particularly in health care services and research. Bangladesh side requested for greater mutual cooperation focusing on training, capacity building, and technology transfer. Bangladesh side highlighted that Biosecurity Cooperation is an area that may be explored by both sides as the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed that without meaningful biosecurity measures, economic prosperity is at stake, given the interconnected nature of trans-boundary trade and people to people contacts between the two countries. The two Prime Ministers appreciated the collaboration and active participation under different mechanisms between Indian Council of Medical Research, India and, Bangladesh Medical Research Council, Bangladesh.
New Areas of Cooperation
Recalling that Bangladesh launched its first satellite, Bangabandhu Satellite (BS-1) in 2017, Prime Minister Hasina Sheikh informed that Bangladesh would launch the second satellite soon. In this regard, both the Prime Ministers agreed for further collaboration and technology transfer in space and satellite research.
Both sides acknowledged the potential of new and emerging areas of cooperation in bilateral cooperation and directed authorities on both sides to focus on and augment cooperation in cutting edge areas of science, artificial intelligence, peaceful uses of nuclear technology, big data and technology enabled services in health and education. To facilitate further youth exchanges between the two countries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited 50 young entrepreneurs from Bangladesh to visit India and present their ideas to venture capitalists.
As part of the visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Jeshoreshwari Devi Temple in Jashore and Orakandi Temple in Gopalganj on 27 March 2021. Prime Minister lauded the prevailing tradition of religious harmony in Bangladesh.
Partners in the Region and the World
Both countries agreed to continue working together for common objectives in the United Nations and other multilateral fora.
Both leaders emphasized that the regional organizations, such as SAARC and BIMSTEC have an important role to play, particularly in the post-Covid-19 situation. Bangladesh Prime Minister thanked the Indian Prime Minister for convening the SAARC leaders Video Conference in March 2020 and for proposing creation of the SAARC Emergency Response Fund to counter effects of the global pandemic in the South Asian region.
Bangladesh side thanked the Government of India for confirming support in favour of Bangladesh’s candidate to the post of Director, South East Asian Regional Office of the WHO in 2023.