India, Bangladesh ink 22 pacts in key sectors

While an accord on the sharing of Teesta waters continued to elude them, India and Bangladesh on Saturday signed 22 agreements, including five in defence and three in civil nuclear energy sectors, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a concessional Line of Credit (LoC) of $4.5 billion for development projects and another LoC of $500 million for defence-related procurement for Bangladesh.

Modi reassured Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that his government was working with all stakeholders in India for an early conclusion of the Teesta water sharing agreement after she requested him for an early conclusion of the accord as was agreed upon between the countries in January 2011, a joint statement issued by the two sides said.

The two PMs directed their officials to meanwhile conclude discussions on various aspects relating to sharing of waters of the Feni, Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar rivers.

In an indirect endorsement of India’s stand against Pakistan on the issue of terrorism, the joint statement said the two PMs strongly condemned the recent barbaric attacks in India and Bangladesh and expressed their conviction that the fight against terrorism should not only seek to disrupt and eliminate terrorists and terror organisations but also take strong measures against States which support and finance terrorism, provide sanctuary to terrorists and falsely extol their virtues. They shared the view that there should be no glorification of terrorists as martyrs.

On the trade and investment front, the two leaders noted that during the course of Sheikh Hasina’s visit, the private sectors of the two nations would sign agreements that would result in investment of more than $9 billion in Bangladesh.

The tone for making Sheikh Hasina’s four-day visit successful was set by Modi in the afternoon during the talks between the leaders. “While our partnership brings prosperity to our people, it also works to protect them from forces of radicalisation and extremism. Their spread poses a grave threat, not just to India and Bangladesh but to the entire region,” Modi said at a joint media interaction with Sheikh Hasina after talks between the leaders.

What was quite perceptible during the brief media event at the majestic Hyderabad House was the personal chemistry between the two leaders. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who too was present on the occasion, appeared quite relaxed as she joined the two PMs in formally launching rail and bus services between the two countries. However, there was no word on whether the Teesta issue figured during her interaction with Hasina over the lunch hosted by Modi.

But the Indian PM Modi did not disappoint the Bangladeshi delegation on the contentious issue, saying he firmly believed that “it is only my government and Excellency Sheikh Hasina, your government, that can and will find an early solution to the Teesta water sharing.’’

The $4.5 billion LoC announced by Mr Modi for projects in priority sectors in Bangladesh bring India’s resource allocation to the neighbouring country to $8 billion over the past six years. The $500 million LoC to support defence-related purchases by Bangladesh is clearly aimed at reducing Dhaka’s dependence on China for meeting its defence requirements. However, Modi emphasised that India would be guided by Bangladesh’s needs and priorities in implementing this LoC.

In her brief remarks to the media, Hasina described India as the most important neighbour of Bangladesh, adding her government’s firm resolve to further strengthen ties with New Delhi.

Speaking about defence accords, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said, “We had a fairly extensive cooperation in the water and on the ground between our forces but there was some lacunae which has been corrected now.”

The other agreements relate to cooperation in areas like civil nuclear energy, cyber security, judicial services, passenger and cruise services, mass media, motor vehicle passenger traffic and trade.

Jaishankar said the two countries were expected to ink 12 business agreements to the tune of billions of dollars during Hasina’s visit, taking the number of accords to 34.

Source: The Statesman

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