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Hasina-Modi historic summit today

Published : 16 Dec 2020 10:19 PM | Updated : 17 Dec 2020 01:42 AM

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is set to hold talks with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Thursday in the first-ever virtual summit amid Covid-19 pandemic that foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen termed as ‘historic’.

He told Bangladesh Post that they are expecting to sign ‘at least six’ MoUs of cooperation in different sectors including energy, elephant conservation and quick impact projects during the meeting that will “chart out the future of the both neighbours’ development journey.”

“It’s a historic summit, I would say,” he said, as India has agreed to celebrate the 50 years of Bangladesh’s independence jointly.

“Our victory is their victory. India fought for us in 1971. Indian soldiers shed blood for us. Our tie is a blood relation,” he said, adding that India would release a commemorative stamp on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman marking the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation.

“It’ll be an hour-long meeting since it's virtual. But both sides will raise their major issues,” he said, adding that water sharing, border management, trade imbalance, connectivity, and energy cooperation are some of the key issues that Bangladesh would raise in the meeting.

Regional issues such as the Rohingya crisis will also be discussed in the meeting as Bangladesh is expecting India’s support to resolve the crisis.

“Both countries have shown the maturity of diplomacy by resolving the problems mutually,” he said, referring to land boundary agreement and maritime dispute.

“This summit is going to be held at the height of diplomatic maturity,” he said, adding that Covid vaccine and post-Covid recovery would also be discussed at the meeting.

India, which is making Oxford’s vaccine and also trying its own company’s vaccine, earlier promised to share the vaccine with Bangladesh as soon as it is available for Indians.

During the Covid time, when the whole world came to standstill, Bangladesh and India continued to maintain robust engagements.

The first trial movement of cargo from Kolkata to North East India through roads and waterways of Bangladesh, signing of the second addendum to the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade, export of goods from India using rail route, including container and parcel trains, were some of the initiatives which were taken successfully despite the pandemic induced constraints.

Both countries also reestablished air connectivity under an “air bubble arrangement” due to the pandemic lockdown.

The summit between the two premiers would give a chance to review the entire gamut of the relation.

Both leaders will witness reopening of an old railway link, Chilahati-Haldibari rail route, after 55 years since it was snapped during the India-Pakistan war in 1965, when Bangladesh was part of Pakistan.

The foreign minister said the Bangladesh side would urge for some ‘effective’ measures to reduce the bilateral trade gap which includes resolving non-tariff trade barriers on Bangladeshi products.

He said they would particularly urge India to withdraw an existing anti-dumping policy in importing Bangladeshi jute.

They two leaders will also declare two-kilometre road on zero lines along Bangladesh’s western frontier at Mujibnagar in Meherpur as “Shawdhinota Sark” (Independence Road).

The first Bangladesh government was sworn-in in 1971 at that site. The road would be open for people of both the countries to be cleared at immigration check posts.

Both the prime ministers will also inaugurate the ‘Bangabandhu-Bapu Digital Museum’ to pay tributes to founders of Bangladesh and India.

Some footage of the Bangabandhu’s under construction biopic being made by famous Indian filmmaker Shyam Benegal would be screened during the summit.

State minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam, earlier, on Tuesday said that Bangladesh-India friendship has “passed the test of time through mutual respect and understanding of each other’s perspectives, concerns and priorities”.

“The relationship has its genesis in our War of Liberation in 1971,” he had said, adding that “We take pride in declaring that, whatever is the backdrop or context, Bangladesh-India relations have been tested time and again and we have successfully been able to maintain a traditionally stable relationship between our two countries.”

He, however, said that there is always ‘scope’ to broaden the partnership.

“What is needed is the positive mindset of our peoples towards relations. Equally, we need to understand each other’s concerns, risks and vulnerabilities as well as opportunities,” he said.

The two prime ministers held the last bilateral talks in New Delhi on October 5 last year. Modi was scheduled to visit Bangladesh in March to join Bangabandhu’s birth centenary celebrations. But it was cancelled due to Covid-19. But both leaders met in a virtual meeting on Covid crisis with other SAARC leaders.