India-Bangladesh Ties: Scaling New Heights

Syed Muazzem Ali Syed Muazzem Ali India and Bangladesh have successfully bolstered their relationship to reach a new multi-dimensional and comprehensive platform. It is expected that Abdul Hamid’s visit will give a new impetus to bilateral ties President Mohammad Abdul Hamid will be representing Bangladesh at the International Solar Alliance Founding Conference in New Delhi from March 10 to 12, 2018. Before coming to Delhi, he will be visiting Assam and Meghalaya to relive memories of the 1971 war where he had fought as a brave freedom fighter. These visits are most befitting as Bangladesh-India bilateral cooperation had begun in the battlefields of 1971. Emotional bonds, stemming from the invaluable contributions of the Government and the people of India during Bangladesh’s War of Liberation, led by our Father of Nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, remain a dominant factor in the country’s political, cultural and social wave. Crucially, as a gesture from Bangladesh in recognising the supreme sacrifices made by 1,661 Indian martyrs for the liberation of Bangladesh, a special Sommanona programme was jointly organised by the Government of India and Bangladesh during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s last visit to India. The programme was unique in the sense that never in the history of the world has a country recognised the contribution of another country by honouring the martyrs at their motherland.A stable, strong and friendly neighbourhood is a necessity for any country, big or small, and especially in our region where several armed terrorist groups are eager to exploit differences between the two countries to further their objectives. It is natural to have bilateral problems with one’s neighbours, more so, for India and Bangladesh which share huge land and maritime boundaries, use common rivers and rail and road and river networks. However, it is heartening that the earlier mistrust and tensions between Bangladesh and India have been largely cleared. As close neighbours, both countries should take note of each other’s sensitivities and vulnerabilities and demonstrate a greater political will to establish mutually cooperative ties.Since assumption of power for the second time in 2009, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has consistently tried to improve mutual trust and cooperation and she has brought a change in our mindset in our bilateral ties. There is now a greater recognition on both sides that the destinies of our two neighbouring countries are inescapably intertwined and we must grow together. Our stability and prosperity are inextricably linked with each other.Happily, on the other hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after assumption of office little over three years ago, had also expressed his keen desire to promote all-round bilateral cooperation. His historic visit to Bangladesh in June 2015 has taken our ties to newer heights. Sixty eight years after the Partition of 1947, and 41 years after the conclusion of the Indira-Mujib Border Accord of 1974, the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) between the two countries was concluded and ratified. Modi had demonstrated how a long-standing complex bilateral issue could be resolved unanimously through consultation, compassion and consensus-building. The successful conclusion of the LBA also signalled fulfilment of the vision of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who had taken the initiative after Bangladesh’s independence.During the last summit-level meetings, our two Prime Ministers Sheikh Hasina . and Narendra Modi have taken our bilateral ties to a new level which is well beyond the ‘strategic partnership’. The 11 agreements and 24 Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) signed during the visit virtually encompass every important sector in our bilateral cooperation namely security, trade, connectivity, energy, civil nuclear agreement, defence and introduction of new bus and train services etc. In addition to the two earlier Line of Credits (LoCs), India also extended a fresh LoC to Bangladesh during the visit to the tune of five billion dollar which also includes $500 million for defence purchase.Bangladesh will utilise this credit for the projects that it needs on a priority basis. Likewise, it will utilise the defence credit on the purchase of the items it requires. Private sectors also made their valuable inputs when they signed MoUs for the investment to the tune of $13 billion primarily in the energy sector. Security issue had bedevilled Indo-Bangladesh ties in the past. Hasina, since assumption of power, has firmly controlled the situation and did not allow any terrorist activities, or any terrorist group to use Bangladesh’s soil to launch an attack against India or any neighbouring country. Since then, security cooperation has been the high point of our relations. It is the principled and unequivocal position of Bangladesh to not tolerate terrorism in any form and to not allow its soil to be used against the interest of any country, particularly India, and has strengthened the confidence of both sides. Cooperation in the energy sector is the hallmark of our renewed engagements and Hamid’s visit will mark the beginning of our cooperation in the solar energy sector. in recent years, there has been a positive momentum in cooperation between the two countries in the power sector and achievements so far have been highly encouraging. Currently, India has been supplying 660 MW of power through the Bheramara-Bahrampur and Tripura-Comilla inter-connection.Both countries have also started cooperation on renewable energy and nuclear power. India will be providing Bangladesh technical assistance for the construction of the 2,400 MW Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Pabna. Another coal-based plant namely Maitree Super Thermal Power Project of 1,320 MW at Rampal, Bagerhat of Bangladesh by Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Plant Company (Pvt) Ltd is also progressing well.In the private sector, major Indian conglomerate like Adani and Reliance Groups concluded the agreement on supply of electricity. Several other projects in the power sector have been included in the new LoC of $4.5 billion which was announced during the visit of Hasina to India in April 2017. Agreements worth $13 billion of Indian investment were also signed during the visit, which is in the power and energy sectors of Bangladesh, nearly nine billion dollar.

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