India, Bangladesh ink 22 pacts, Modi announces $4.5-bn line of credit to Dhaka4 min read . Updated: 08 Apr 2017, 08:08 PM IST
India, Bangladesh sign 22 pacts in areas spanning civil nuclear cooperation, defence among others. PM Modi assures Sheikh Hasina of early solution on Teesta
New Delhi: The prime ministers of India and Bangladesh signalled political and strategic convergence on Saturday condemning Pakistan sponsored terrorism and radicalism without naming the South Asian nation. This came as India and Bangladesh signed a slew of pacts in areas spanning civil nuclear cooperation and defence, people to people ties and connectivity.
The broadsides by India and Bangladesh against Pakistan—which neither prime minister named—come as ties between New Delhi and Islamabad are at an all time low, mainly due to what India describes as Pakistan sponsored terrorism continuing unabated against it.
In contrast, India announced the extension of a $4.5 billion line of credit for development projects in Bangladesh and another $500 million for defence hardware purchases for Dhaka in a bid to deepen political and strategic ties between the two nations.
Among the 22 pacts signed on Saturday were ones on cooperation in civil nuclear cooperation as well as peaceful uses of outer space.
“In many ways for India, this is an exceptional relationship," foreign secretary S. Jaishankar told reporters adding that the two countries had used the word “fraternal friendship" in a joint statement to describe their bilateral ties. “We have in this government spoken of the ‘neighbourhood first’ policy... if there is one example of where the neighbourhood first has yielded good results on both sides its the case with Bangladesh," Jaishankar said referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi placing a priority on ties with neighbours in foreign policy.
On the convergence of interests between Bangladesh and India, Jaishankar said, “We are very clear and so is the Bangladesh government today that different aspects of terrorism, terrorist networks ... terrorism is a threat to each other and we have cooperated extremely well in dealing with it which is why you have a visible improvement in the security situation in East (of India) and the Northeast (of India)," Jaishankar said.
“I would say that the positions taken by the Bangladeshi prime minister and the positions we have taken, there is a very similar thinking at play. Both of us, our thinking is shaped by our experience," he said adding that on occasions both countries had “coordinated" their positions on such matters.
The convergence of thought between India and Bangladesh was visible on Saturday when both Modi and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina referred obliquely to Pakistan at a ceremony to honour Indian soldiers who fought in the 1971 Bangladeshi war of independence. “There is one thought in South Asia which breeds, inspires and encourages terrorism. The thought whose priority is not humanity, but extremism and terrorism," Modi said.
On her part, Hasina spoke about “Pakistani occupation" as she paid tributes to Indian soldiers killed in the 1971 war.
Earlier in the day, Modi hailed Hasina’s India trip—her first bilateral visit in seven years—as the start of a new “golden era" between the two countries. He also credited Hasina for what he described as the “transformation" in the relationship.
Ties have warmed considerably since Hasina took office for a second time in 2009—especially since her government has helped in the crackdown on anti-Indian insurgent groups with bases in Bangladesh. This is in contrast to Pakistan which is seen as sheltering and arming groups inimical to India as well as refusing to take any action against them.
“We agreed that the agenda of our cooperation has to remain focused on purposeful action. We specifically looked at charting new avenues and tapping fresh opportunities in advancing our relationship. We want to build cooperation in new areas, especially some high-technology areas, that have a deeper connect with the youth in both our societies. These would include working in the fields of Electronics, Information Technology, Cyber Security, Space exploration, Civil Nuclear Energy, and others areas," Modi said after his talks with Hasina.
On the vexed issue of sharing of the waters of the river Teesta between the two countries, Modi promised “an early solution"—an indication of not having achieved any breakthrough in the ongoing visit.
Describing India as a “long-standing and trusted development partner of Bangladesh," Modi announced a new concessional line of credit of $ 4.5 billion for the implementation of projects in Bangladesh. “This brings our resource allocation for Bangladesh to more than $8 billion over the past six years," Modi said.
Highlighting energy security as an important dimension of India-Bangladesh development partnership, Modi said the two countries had on Saturday added an additional 60 megawatts (MW) to the 600 MW of power already flowing from India to Bangladesh. The Indian government had committed to the addition of another 500 MW under an existing inter-connection.
Connectivity was another area the two countries focussed on Saturday with Modi describing it as “crucial" for the success of bilateral development partnership, sub-regional economic projects and for the larger regional economic prosperity. The two prime ministers and the chief minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee restored bus and train routes previously shut between the two countries.
On her part, Hasina described talks with Modi as “productive" and agreed with Modi that greater connectivity was “vital" for development in the region. The discussions covered trade in electricity from Nepal and Bhutan, she said. PM Modi was receptive to Bangladeshi concerns on the trade deficit afflicting two way trade, Hasina added.
On the marked difference of India’s ties with Pakistan and Bangladesh—erstwhile West Pakistan and East Pakistan respectively—foreign secretary Jaishankar said, “the benefits of cooperation, the benefits of connectivity, the benefits of trade, the benefits of cooperating against terrorism... I think the lessons are out there. Now its up to other to pick up those lessons and decide which ones of those they are going to use."