Modi, Hasina flag ‘futuristic vision’: Delhi, Dhaka set new ball rolling on economy, trade, strategic ties

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Talks will start on economic partnership, including a medical e-visa agreement, an expert team for the Teesta River, and various other collaborations.

Modi, Hasina flag ‘futuristic vision’: Delhi, Dhaka set new ball rolling on economy, trade, strategic ties

 

India and Bangladesh have embarked on a renewed path of collaboration, marked by the signing of 10 comprehensive agreements during the recent meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Held at Hyderabad House on a significant Saturday, these agreements span across critical sectors, setting a futuristic vision for bilateral ties.

Key Initiatives and Agreements

1. Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA):
The decision to initiate negotiations on CEPA underscores the importance of economic collaboration. Bangladesh, India’s largest trade partner in South Asia, sees India as its second-largest trade partner in Asia. In FY 2022-23, Bangladesh’s exports to India stood at approximately $2 billion. The CEPA aims to foster a more balanced trade environment and open new investment avenues, addressing the economic challenges Bangladesh faces, as highlighted by the World Bank’s April 2024 update. The update noted the nation’s strong post-pandemic recovery but pointed out ongoing issues such as high inflation and a persistent balance of payments deficit.

2. Medical E-Visa Facility:
A significant relief for Bangladeshi citizens, the launch of the medical e-visa facility aims to simplify the process for those seeking medical treatment in India. In 2023 alone, around 16 lakh visas were issued to Bangladeshi nationals, with an estimated 20-30% for medical purposes. This facility will streamline and expedite the visa process, enhancing accessibility to India’s healthcare services.

3. Teesta River Water-Sharing:
The deployment of an Indian technical team to discuss the conservation and management of the Teesta River marks a significant move amid Chinese interest in the project. This initiative aims to address water-sharing issues, fostering regional cooperation and sustainable management of shared resources.

4. Assistant High Commission in Rangpur:
The establishment of an Assistant High Commission (AHC) in Rangpur, the fifth in Bangladesh, is part of India’s strategy to expand its diplomatic presence. The new AHC will join existing ones in Rajshahi, Khulna, Chittagong, and Sylhet, reflecting New Delhi’s commitment to deepening bilateral ties.

Strategic and Economic Imperatives

Modi’s third term sees a focused approach towards enhancing the health of Bangladesh’s economy, addressing medical needs, expanding India’s regional influence, and countering Beijing’s strategic footprint. The leaders discussed an array of areas including defence cooperation, counter-terrorism, counter-radicalization, and border management, aiming to bolster security and strategic interests.

Signed Documents and Cooperation Areas

Seven crucial documents were signed, covering digital and green partnerships, maritime cooperation, blue economy, space cooperation, railway connectivity, oceanography, and defence and strategic operations. Additionally, three pacts on health, disaster management, and fisheries were renewed, highlighting the broad spectrum of the partnership.

Leaders’ Vision and Commitment

Prime Minister Modi expressed confidence in achieving the goals of “Viksit Bharat 2047” and “Smart Bangladesh,” emphasizing connectivity, commerce, and collaboration. Prime Minister Hasina echoed this vision, underscoring the historical and deep-rooted relationship between the two nations, born out of the 1971 War of Liberation. She acknowledged India’s crucial role and sacrifices in Bangladesh’s independence.

Diplomatic Engagements

During her visit, Hasina met with President Droupadi Murmu, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. Her tribute to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat and the ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan were poignant reminders of the shared history and mutual respect.

Addressing Anti-India Sentiments

Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra highlighted the importance of projecting the correct narrative of the India-Bangladesh relationship. He stressed that the deep-rooted, time-tested ties between the two nations should not be undermined by the isolated minority of vested interests spreading misinformation.

Conclusion

The renewed strategic engagement between India and Bangladesh sets a robust framework for future cooperation, addressing economic, medical, and strategic needs. With a shared vision for a prosperous future, both nations are poised to strengthen their ties and work collaboratively towards mutual growth and stability.

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