Published:  01:14 AM, 11 September 2023

India-Bangladesh Relations on a New Height for Sheikh Hasina (Part I)

India-Bangladesh Relations on a New Height for Sheikh Hasina (Part I)
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met in a bilateral meeting at Lok Kalyan Marg in New Delhi recently on the occasion of G20. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held a whole-hearted meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The meeting was held at Narendra Modi's residence. At the end of the meeting, Modi said, the discussion was very fruitful, and bilateral relations were satisfactory. Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said Narendra Modi praised Sheikh Hasina's leadership in the meeting. He also thanked Sheikh Hasina for the peaceful situation in North-East India.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina arrived in New Delhi at noon on September 8 for the G20 conference and bilateral talks. The meeting at Narendra Modi's residence was the first program of her visit to India. Sheikh Hasina reached Narendra Modi's residence at 5:30 PM local time in India. Modi greeted Sheikh Hasina himself. The meeting that started after that lasted for an hour. First, the delegation led by the Prime Ministers of the two countries held a formal discussion. Later, Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi spoke privately and exclusively. After the meeting, Narendra Modi said on Twitter, "There was a fruitful discussion with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The progress of India-Bangladesh relations in the last nine years has been very satisfactory. Our discussions included connectivity, commercial linkages, and many more.'

The bilateral meeting was held in a very cordial atmosphere. Both the Prime Ministers discussed important issues of bilateral interest. The Prime Minister recalled India's contribution to our Liberation War with deep respect and expressed special thanks to the Prime Minister of India for inviting her to the G20 Leaders’ Summit. She expressed her gratitude to the Prime Minister of India for taking the necessary initiatives to protect the interests of other parts of the world, especially the G20, by bringing the issues of interest to the attention of the G20. Both the Prime Ministers expressed satisfaction over the existing deep relationship between Bangladesh and India and agreed to take effective steps to further this relationship. 

The Foreign Minister said that in the meeting, the Indian Prime Minister appreciated the strong leadership of Sheikh Hasina for the great development of Bangladesh.

The Foreign Minister said that on the eve of the Prime Minister's visit, three MoUs have been signed between the two countries. The MoUs signed are - MoU between the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research for assistance in agriculture. Under this MoU, cooperation in agricultural research and training will be strengthened between the two countries. Various steps and programs will be taken to further strengthen cooperation between the two countries in the arts, literature, and cultural sectors through the Memorandum of Understanding on Cultural Cooperation.

The third MoU was signed between India's NPCI International Payments Limited and Bangladesh Bank. As a result of this MoU, mutual transactions between the two countries will be facilitated. In response to a question, the foreign minister said that there was no discussion about the election. I do not know if it was discussed in a private meeting.

In the bilateral meeting, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was accompanied by Prime Minister's daughter Saima Wazed Putul, Nephew Radwan Mujeeb Siddique, Foreign Minister Dr. AK Abdul Momen, Principal Secretary of the Prime Minister's Office Tofazzal Hossain Miah and Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen. External Affairs Minister Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, and others were present on behalf of India.

Sheikh Hasina wants India's cooperation in Rohingya repatriation. The Indian Prime Minister has urged discussions to resolve the outstanding issues between the two countries. Earlier, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina left Dhaka for New Delhi on a three-day state visit at the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The visit is to attend the G-20 summit in New Delhi on September 9-10. Incidentally, the country has invited 9 countries including Bangladesh to participate as guest countries in this year's G-20 conference to be held in India. Bangladesh is the only country in South Asia to be invited to the conference based on the existing relations between India and Bangladesh.

Sheikh Hasina expressed her gratitude and special thanks to the Prime Minister of India for inviting her to the G-20 Summit. She also expressed her gratitude to the Prime Minister of India for taking the necessary initiatives to protect the interests of the backward and disadvantaged community of the world, especially the 'Global South', by bringing the issues related to the interests of the G-20 to a large scale. The Prime Minister of India congratulated Bangladesh for actively participating in the G-20 meetings. Both the Prime Ministers expressed satisfaction over the existing deep relationship between Bangladesh and India and agreed to take effective steps to further this relationship. The Prime Minister mentioned that after her successful state visit to New Delhi on 04-08 September last year, a lot of visible progress has been achieved in various areas related to bilateral interests.

Both the Prime Ministers expressed satisfaction with this. In the meeting, the Prime Minister informed the Indian Prime Minister about the success achieved by Bangladesh in various socio-economic fields. The Prime Minister of India appreciated the strong leadership of the Prime Minister for the tremendous progress of Bangladesh.

Diplomatic analysts believe that this meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh Prime Minister has taken India-Bangladesh relations one step further. They think that this meeting is a reflection of mutual trust, faith, and friendship between India and Bangladesh.

The issue of 'regional peace and stability' has received great importance in the meeting. Our issue is regional peace and stability. We have been saying this time and again, India is also saying the same." “If this thing is destroyed, it will affect not only our two countries but the whole of South Asia. We have said this in the meeting, India has also agreed with it".

It is reported from Bangladesh that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also requested the uninterrupted supply of daily necessities from India to Bangladesh. The meeting is at a time when the next general election of Bangladesh is only three or three and a half months away.Since India's support for Sheikh Hasina's government is considered to be a very strong factor in the international arena, the political and diplomatic significance of this meeting between the two just before the elections in that country was immense. In this background, India's pledge of strong support and help to protect the democratic tradition and political stability in Bangladesh will remain intact.

 This bilateral meeting of Narendra Modi with Sheikh Hasina in Delhi was being given due importance by both countries long ago. Especially since only two weeks ago at the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, there was no meeting between them even though both were present, so this meeting in Delhi also had a special significance. A senior official of India's Ministry of External Affairs said, "Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina went to BRICS at the invitation of the host country South Africa and she has come to Delhi on the special invitation of Prime Minister Modi, so no matter how busy we are with G-20, we had to have this bilateral meeting between the two leaders."

Minutes before Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina landed at the Delhi airport, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself tweeted, "I am eagerly awaiting three bilateral meetings at my residence this evening." He also said that in the evening he will hold three separate bilateral meetings with Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnath, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and US President Joe Biden. "These meetings will provide an opportunity to review our bilateral relations and strengthen development cooperation with these three countries". The way he held separate meetings with the heads of government of three specific countries at his Lok Kalyan Marg residence before the start of the main G20 meeting is also considered very significant by observers. It is well-known how close India's strategic relationship with the US has been lately. India's relationship with Mauritius, both a member of the Quad and a member of the international alliance, is very old and very friendly. Meeting with Bangladesh on the same day also has a diplomatic, political tactical, or strategic importance.

Harshvardhan Shringla, who is the chief coordinator on behalf of India at the G-20 summit, also reminded that Bangladesh is the only one in South Asia, but India has given a special invitation to the G-20. Standing at the venue of the G-20 meeting, this former foreign secretary of India and the former High Commissioner appointed in Dhaka told the media, "It is important to note that Bangladesh has been invited as a very close and friendly neighbor."

He also described the fact that the Prime Minister of Bangladesh is among the first world leaders PM Modi is meeting as a 'very important' matter. In fact, despite the presence of more than two dozen members and leaders of invited countries in the G-20, no effort was spared to convey that the host country India is giving special importance to neighboring Bangladesh.The spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Arindam Bagchi, also posted a video in the afternoon, reminding the two leaders of India and Bangladesh that they meet face-to-face or virtually and discuss various issues.

The government sent Darshana Vikram Zardosh, Minister of State for Railways and MP elected from Surat, Gujarat, known as Prime Minister Modi's confidant, to welcome Prime Minister Hasina at the airport. Smita Panth, Joint Secretary of the Bangladesh and Myanmar Desk at the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi was also present. Besides, Bangladesh High Commissioner in India Mostafizur Rahman, and senior officials of the High Commission were also present on the tarmac to welcome Prime Minister Hasina. It is noteworthy that Prime Minister Hasina came to Delhi as a guest at the G-20, but she is trying to use this stage as much as possible in the interests of Bangladesh's regional and economic diplomacy.

Cultural, social, and economic ties between India and Bangladesh, history, culture, language, tradition, and arts are similar, so the passion of the people of the two countries is almost the same. Although India became directly involved in the war for Bangladesh at the end of the Liberation War in 1971, it kept its border open since the beginning of the genocide of Bengalis by the Pakistanis. About 1 crore people left their homes and took refuge in India to escape the brutality. The Government of India provided shelter and food to the oppressed people for 9 months despite various difficulties.

Hiren Pandit is a columnist
and a researcher.

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