Home / Politics / Policy /  Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina’s visit set to deepen Indo-Bangla ties

New Delhi: Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina arrived in New Delhi on Friday on a four-day visit that is expected to see India deepen strategic ties with its neighbour with a civilian nuclear cooperation pact as well as a defence agreement which includes a $500 million (around Rs3,200 crore today) line of credit to buy Indian military hardware.

Extending a special welcome, Prime Minister Narendra Modi received his Bangladesh counterpart, who is in India on her first bilateral visit in seven years.

“Delighted to welcome H.E. Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, on her State Visit to India," Modi said in a tweet later.

“PM Sheikh Hasina and I are determined to take the relationship between our nations to a new level," he added in another tweet. The two countries are expected to sign about two dozen agreements on Saturday after talks between the two leaders.

For India, Bangladesh is a key neighbour given that the two countries share a 4,095km border. In the past, anti-India insurgents have taken shelter in Bangladesh, posing a security challenge to Indian authorities, said former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh.

“Bangladesh is critical for peace and development in India’s NorthEast. Sheikh Hasina (after taking office as prime minister in 2008) has taken measures to control Indian insurgents causing trouble in India’s North-East, which is why we are seeing a spell of calm," he added.

Bangladesh is also central to India’s regional economic cooperation plans given that the country is strategically located between South and South-East Asia, said Mansingh. Given that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is not making any headway, India is looking at making sub-regional cooperation— between India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan—a success. India is also looking at leveraging cooperation among a group of countries straddling South and South-East Asia, known by the acronym of BIMSTEC, to which also Bangladesh is central.

“The visit is important for Sheikh Hasina because she has gambled on friendly relations with India. And she faces elections next year, which will be seen as a test for her India policy," said Mansingh. “Right wing groups in Bangladesh are upset with her and she cannot be seen as going back empty-handed from India."

According to a Reuters report, India is expected to announce a fresh line of credit worth about $5 billion for infrastructure development, including railways, roads and waterways.

The new line of credit follows two others totalling $2 billion disbursed earlier. This comes after Chinese President Xi Jinping, during his visit to Dhaka in October, extended a $24 billion loan to Bangladesh. During Xi’s visit, ties between China and Bangladesh were elevated from “comprehensive partnership cooperation" to “strategic partnership cooperation".

Similarly the defence cooperation pact with Bangladesh also comes after Dhaka bought two refurbished submarines from China at the competitive price of $24 billion. This had raised red flags in New Delhi about China’s growing footprint in India’s immediate neighbourhood.

Earlier this week, the Indian cabinet cleared five preliminary pacts to be signed with Bangladesh that included one on development of waterways on Kushiara and Jamuna rivers, another on lowering the logistics cost of cargo movement to the North-East and check road congestion through the Siliguri Corridor connecting India with the North-East, and a third for strengthening cooperation between judiciaries through interaction among judges via exchange visits.

However, a deal on sharing the waters of the Teesta river, being negotiated for many years, is unlikely to be signed. Teesta river waters are critical for Bangladesh, specially in the leanest periods from December to March.

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