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Last Updated : Oct 03, 2019 10:03 AM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Amid NRC storm, Bangladesh’s Sheikh Hasina to visit India, likely to sign dozen agreements

Ties between the two South Asian neighbours have been on an upswing in the recent years.

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Starting October 3, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will embark on a four-day tour to India.

Hasina is expected to hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the bilateral visit. The two neighbours are likely to sign almost a dozen agreements.

This is Hasina’s first visit to New Delhi since parliamentary elections were held in both Bangladesh and India. The general election in Bangladesh was held in late December 2018. Hasina’s Bangladesh Awami League had secured a massive mandate. The Awami League-led coalition won over 270 seats in the 300-member Jatiya Sangsad (House of the Nation).

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With the win, Hasina secured a third-consecutive term in office and fourth overall.

Hasina last visited India in May 2018. She then participated in the convocation ceremony at West Bengal’s Visva-Bharati University, Shantiniketan.

However, the two leaders met in New York in September on the sidelines of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

At the meeting, Hasina and PM Modi reiterated Bangladesh and India’s zero-tolerance approach to terrorism and violent extremism. They also agreed that a strong security partnership has built trust and mutual confidence between the two neighbours.

Itinerary

She will be the chief guest at the India Economic Summit. The event is organised by the World Economic Forum on October 3 and 4.

Hasina and PM Modi will hold bilateral talks on October 5.

She will call on President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on October 5.

After this, she is likely to meet Congress Interim President Sonia Gandhi at her residence on October 6.

On the agenda

Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said on October 2 that the two countries were expected to sign a dozen bilateral agreements in various areas. The two prime ministers are also expected to review issues of sharing of water in common rivers including Teesta and the Rohingya crisis.

"All bilateral issues will be discussed during their meeting including...framework agreement over all trans-boundary rivers with Teesta, Indian cooperation on Rohingya repatriation and reducing border killing at zero," Momen said.

According to a report by The Indian Express, the two sides could also discuss the finalisation of a river management framework.

Dhaka is also likely to seek New Delhi’s cooperation in upgrading its railways, roads and shipping infrastructure. There could also be a request for the export of more electricity to Bangladesh.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been pushing for implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in other parts of India, besides Assam. There has been a serious push to conduct the exercise in West Bengal which border Bangladesh.

Hasina earlier said that NRC had become a matter of great concern for Bangladesh.

According to reports, PM Modi has assured Hasina that NRC would have "no impact on Bangladesh" and there was no need to be worried about it. The interaction happened when they met on the sidelines of UNGA.

Reports, citing an unnamed top Bangladeshi official, suggest that PM Modi has also assured Hasina that people excluded from the NRC list will not be deported to the country. The official also called NRC as India’s internal matter.

Why it’s important

Bangladesh and India share a 4,000-km long border that has been marred by ethnic conflicts. Its location is strategically important for India, and China has time and again tried to woo Dhaka. Overall, Bangladesh is a key component of India's 'Look East' policy.

Under Hasina's regime, New Delhi has seen improved bilateral ties and boundary disputes have been settled amicably while strong security cooperation has been established and significant progress has been made in settling differences over the Teesta River water sharing.

Bilateral trades and India's investments in Bangladesh have also picked up. The two sides have stepped up cooperation on land, river, sea and air connectivity, and intensified partnership in energy.

Imran Khan calls Hasina ahead of her tour

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on October 2 telephoned Hasina and exchanged pleasantries in an apparent surprise-call a day ahead of her India visit.

Hasina's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim told new agency PTI that, during the call in the afternoon, Khan also inquired about the treatment of her eyes, which were operated recently in London.

The ties between Bangladesh and Pakistan are currently being described as being the worst in recent decades over the execution of several high-profile Pakistani collaborators in the past several years on the 1971 war crime charges. The two sides expelled each other's diplomats after the war criminals executions.

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First Published on Oct 3, 2019 10:03 am
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