Earlier this month, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh was on a four-day state visit to India from September 5 to September 8. Due to a deadly petrifying pandemic, PM Hasina’s delayed visit has a slew of serious implications for Bangladesh. From bilateral tete-a-tete with the top leaders of India to a spiritual trip to Ajmer Dargah, PM Hasina’s India visit was colorful and indelible. New Delhi greeted Prime Minister Hasina on her arrival on September 5 in a festive manner. A cavalcade welcomed Prime Minister Hasina’s motorcade as it arrived at Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi on the second day morning of her visit.
A red carpet reception was arranged, with a customary guard of honor by the Indian Armed Forces. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a warm welcome there in person. In addition to bilateral talks with her counterpart, Sheikh Hasina held separate meetings with Indian President Draupadi Murmu, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar and Foreign Minister Jaishankar.
Understanding the matter better
During this visit, PM Sheikh Hasina and her host PM Narendra Modi jointly inaugurated Unit-1 of the Rampal Maitri Super Thermal Power Project. The project is built under India’s financial support and will add an additional 1320 MW of power to Bangladesh’s national grid. The leaders of the two countries also inaugurated the 5.13 km Rupsa Rail Bridge, an important project of the 64.7 km Khulna-Mongla Bandar Broad Gauge Rail Project.
During her visit, India and Bangladesh inked seven MoUs including water sharing from the cross-border Kushiyara river, cooperation in space technology and science and technology, collaboration on railways system and Bangladeshi judicial officers in India, and cooperation in broadcasting between state broadcasters Prasar Bharati and Bangladesh Television. The Kushiyara river agreement will directly benefit people on both sides, southern Assam in India as well as Sylhet in Bangladesh. India will share flood data with the flood-prone delta nation.
While in India, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina conferred Mujib Scholarship to the direct descendants of the Indian armed forces, who were martyred or seriously wounded during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. One of the most important aspects of the Prime Minister’s visit was economic prospects. The Prime Minister was accompanied by a delegation including an economic affairs advisor. As Bangladesh will graduate from Least Developed Countries status in 2026, the nation of 180 million will not have many facilities.
With the aim to make the two nations more prosperous, Bangladesh and India are going to sign the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement to further strengthen bilateral economic relations. This will be Dhaka’s first such trade agreement with any country. CEPA includes a range of issues such as trade in goods and services, investment, intellectual property and e-commerce. The proposed bilateral trade agreement CEPA is expected to increase Bangladesh’s export by 190% and India’s by 188%. The total domestic production of the two countries will expectedly increase. Bangladesh’s vibrant economy and growing significance are not just appealing to the policymakers in India but also the investors from India. Indian industrialist Gautam Adani has committed PM Hasina to supply electricity to Bangladesh through his new project.
During the bilateral talks during the visit, both sides emphasized increasing cooperation in the spheres of environment, climate change, security, information communication, space technology, environment friendly and blue economy. The heads of the two governments have pledged to reduce the killings on the India-Bangladesh border to zero. Trespassing to India via a border and border killing are hotly debated issues in Bangladesh as well as India. The two sides in Delhi raised the issue of preventing the spread of terrorism and militancy. For both, these two remain a serious threat.
Due to the supply chain crisis and war in Ukraine, Bangladesh has been suffering from a shortage of energy and other essential commodities. Just a month ago, there was huge agitation in Bangladesh over a hike in fuel prices. Bangladesh may consider buying cheaper oil from India. The two states are readying a friendship pipeline, which will supply around 1 million metric tonnes of gas oil from the Numaligarh refinery in Assam to Bangladesh’s Dinajpur. Besides, India has asked Bangladesh to inform them of their goods requirements prior, so that India can ensure the supply of goods on their requirement on time.
Prime Minister Hasina’s visit will certainly push the defense ties between India and Bangladesh. At a time when Bangladesh is readying herself toward mission Forces Goal 2030 to have an advanced military, Dhaka has decided to procure some defense items from India from the $500 million Line of Credit earlier offered by India. Bangladesh is all set to import logistics ships, oil tankers for the Bangladesh Navy, and vehicles for Bangladesh Armed Forces from India. During the 4th Bangladesh-India annual defense dialogue in New Delhi in August, Bangladesh and India explored ways to have a better defense partnership ranging from joint production to defense trade.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited India after a gap of almost 3 years since her last visit in 2019. This could be her last visit, before a nationwide general election in Bangladesh, possibly next year. Her visit will have serious implications in the domestic politics of Bangladesh – beyond bilateral ties. The two countries have mitigated land and water boundary issues in the past. Teesta won’t be an irritant in the bilateral relations between India and Bangladesh. During her visit, the Kushiyara river agreement presented a win-win situation for both countries. As the two neighbors have 54 transboundary rivers in common, India and Bangladesh will find a way to mitigate the water crisis in the future as well.
Ayanangsha Maitra is an Indian Journalist and Doctoral Scholar. The views expressed by the writers do not necessarily represent Global Village Space’s editorial policy.