NEW DELHI, April 8 - Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina began her four-day tour of India on an encouraging note as the two countries today signed 22 pacts in key sectors.
The high-profile visit is expected to boost bilateral ties between Indian and Bangladesh as the two nations signed a civilian nuclear cooperation pact as well as a defence agreement that includes a USD 4.5 billion line of credit to buy Indian military hardware.
Train services connecting West Bengal and Bangladesh and bus services connecting Kolkata and Dhaka were also launched during the visit. Earlier in the day, the Bangladesh Prime Minister was accorded a ceremonial reception at the forecourts of Rashtrapati Bhavan. Later, Hasina visited Rajghat to pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi.
The current tour, however, seems to be West Bengal focused, as Bangladesh is heavily depending on resolution of the Teesta river water sharing agreement. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was present during the discussion and also at the lunch that followed. The Chief Ministers of northeastern states were not invited to take part in the meeting though President Pranab Mukherjee invited them for the state dinner.
Meanwhile, admitting that the issue of illegal migration was discussed during the talks, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said that there was a lot more discussion on legal movement. �It is in our interest to make legal movement more accountable and effective so that there is less illegal movement,� he said. �Our focus is on legal movement. It is now much easier to get visa,� he added.
The Foreign Secretary said that there are different ways to tackle the problem of illegal migration. �Increasing employment opportunities in the neighbouring countries to boosting economic climate remain part of our effort,� he said.
About the issue of terrorism, Jaishankar said that the two countries had positive experience in counter-terrorism operations. �The result is there for everyone to see. The law-and-order situation in eastern and northeastern states is much better now,� he added.
Meanwhile, in his opening remarks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India has always stood for the prosperity of Bangladesh and its people.
�We are a long-standing and trusted development partner of Bangladesh. India and Bangladesh are also determined that the fruits of our cooperation must benefit our people.
�In this context, I am happy to announce a new concessional line of credit of USD 4.5 billion for the implementation of projects in priority sectors for Bangladesh. This brings our resource allocation for Bangladesh to more than eight billion dollars over the past six years.
�Energy security is an important dimension of our development partnership. And, our energy partnership continues to grow. Today, we added an additional 60 mega watt of power to the 600 mega watt of power already flowing from India to Bangladesh. The supply of another 500 mega watt has already been committed from the existing interconnection. We have also agreed to finance the diesel oil pipeline from Numaligarh to Parbatipur.
�Connectivity is crucial for the success of bilateral development partnership, sub-regional economic projects and for the larger regional economic prosperity. Today, together with the Chief Minister of West Bengal, we have added several new links to our growing connectivity. Bus and train links between Kolkata and Khulna, and Radhikapur-Birol have been restored today. Inland waterways routes are being optimised. And, steps are being taken to put into operation the Coastal Shipping Agreement.
�We are happy to receive the high powered business delegation accompanying the Prime Minister. Our agreement to open new border haats will empower border communities through trade and contribute to their livelihoods.
�Our two countries share one of the longest land boundaries. During my visit to Dhaka in June 2015, we had concluded the Land Boundary Agreement. Its implementation is now under way. Along with our shared land boundaries are our shared rivers,� Modi said.