India-Bangladesh ties growing from 'strength to strength', cross-border rail and bus services to resume next month: Jaishankar
Jaishankar said India also looks forward to stronger sub-regional cooperation and connectivity in the energy sector, particularly the hydropower domain that could offer opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation between the countries in the region
As India and Bangladesh intensify bilateral cooperation and expand connectivity across multiple areas, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that New Delhi was looking at resuming cross-border bus and railway services with Bangladesh shortly after Eid early next month as ties between the two countries move from "strength to strength". Jaishankar said he expects early commissioning of new projects with Bangladesh in different sectors, including power, energy and connectivity.
Jaishankar said this while making a press statement in Dhaka Thursday during his two-day visit during which he met Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign minister A K Abdul Momen.
Bangladesh PM’s spokesperson Ihsanul Karim Hasina told PTI in Dhaka that Hasina underlined the importance of connectivity between the two neighbours and offered her country’s main seaport — Chittagong Port — to India’s landlocked northeastern states such as Assam and Tripura.
She told Jaishankar that the enhanced connectivity was needed for mutual benefit, while it would particularly benefit India’s northeastern region in using Chittagong port, Karim said. “If the connectivity is increased…states like Assam and Tripura can have access to the seaport in Chattogram,” she said.
She said that initiatives were taken to resume cross-border routes between Bangladesh and India which were stopped during the 1965 India-Pakistan war, when Bangladesh was the eastern wing of Pakistan.
Karim said several bilateral and international issues were discussed during Prime Minister Hasina’s more than half-an-hour-long meeting with Jaishankar.
Jaishankar handed over an invitation to Hasina on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s behalf to visit New Delhi. “Thank Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her warm reception. Conveyed personal greetings of PM @narendramodi. Our bilateral relations are moving from strength to strength under the guidance of the two leaders,” he tweeted.
Hasina last visited New Delhi in 2019 to attend the Indian Economic Summit of the World Economic Forum (WEF) when she also had bilateral talks with her Indian counterpart. Modi, on the other hand, visited Bangladesh on March 26-27 last year at Hasina's invitation to join the Golden Jubilee celebration of the country's independence, the birth centenary of Bangladesh's Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the 50th years of establishment of Bangladesh-India diplomatic relations.
President Ram Nath Kovind also paid a state visit to Dhaka from December 15-17 last year at the invitation of his Bangladesh counterpart Abdul Hamid to attend the 50th victory day celebration of Bangladesh.
Jaishankar later held “positive discussions” with his Bangladeshi counterpart AK Abdul Momen. “Agreed that our close neighbourly partnership is progressing steadily. Our shared endeavour would be to take it forward. Looking forward to hosting him for the Joint Consultative Commission,” he tweeted.
Defence cooperation, water-sharing of Kushiara and Feni rivers, the Covid-19 situation and impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war on the global economy came up prominently in the discussion between Jaishankar and Hasina, Karim was quoted as saying by Bangladesh media.
Momen also hosted an iftar party followed by a dinner in Jaishankar’s honour at the Foreign Service Academy.
The visit had hit media headlines in Dhaka after Momen said he had urged the Indian side to help in lifting the US sanctions imposed on the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), which in the past was accused of extrajudicial killings.
Arindam Bagchi, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, however, declined to get into the details of the purported exchange involving the sanctions on the RAB with the US, saying India may not go public about this if it involved a third country (U.S.).
Jaishankar said India also looks forward to stronger sub-regional cooperation and connectivity in the energy sector, particularly the hydropower domain that could offer opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation between the countries in the region.
“India is a large producer and consumer of energy and we are very glad to work with our neighbours in that regard including in the BBIN (Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal) framework,” he said. Jaishankar said India would continue to take the lead to structure progressive partnerships of production, transmission and trade in this sub-region.
Jaishankar left Dhaka for Bhutan Friday morning.