Modi's Bangladesh visit: 20 pacts on table, trade to get boost

| Friday, June 5, 2015 - 16:28
First Published |

Modi's Bangladesh visit: 20 pacts on table, trade to get boost

Agartala/Guwahati: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's two-day visit to Dhaka from Saturday is likely to see the signing of 20 agreements besides talks with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on boosting trade, connectivity and anti-terrorism measures.

Chief ministers of several northeastern states, though they are not accompanying Modi, have requested him to raise the issues of infiltration, border trade and connectivity with Bangladesh.

According to a top Bangladesh government official in Agartala, Modi's 36-hour stay in Dhaka is likely to see both sides ink as many as 20 agreements.

"Modi's predecessor Manmohan Singh could not sign the Teesta treaty due to opposition from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The Teesta water sharing pact will cast a shadow during Modi's tour," Tapas Dey, a known expert on Bangladeshi affairs, told IANS

Dey, who visited Bangladesh this week, told IANS: "Though Teesta has been a most fundamental issue for decades, this time both the Awami League government and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have agreed that the issue has some internal implications in Indian politics."

BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia, who refused to pay a courtesy call on Indian President Pranab Mukherjee in Dhaka in March 2013, is likely to call on Modi.

"This time the BNP has been very positive towards the visit of the Indian prime minister. Modi might meet Khaleda Zia on June 7 on the latter's request," Dey said.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, who along with other northeastern chief ministers accompanied Manmohan Singh on his Bangladesh visit in September 2011, said Modi's trip would strengthen bilateral ties.

"The visit is expected to immensely benefit the northeastern states," Sarkar told IANS. He said it was after Tripura's pushing that New Delhi agreed to supply 100 MW electricity from a state power plant to power-starved Bangladesh.

Sarkar, a popular face in Bangladesh, said that Dhaka helped "a lot" to tame decades of terrorism in Tripura. He said some camps of northeastern militants still existed in Bangladesh.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has urged Modi to take up issues concerning his state with Hasina.

"Modi should take up the matter of boosting water and surface communication between Assam and Bangladesh and introducing rail links to enhance trade and commercial ties. He must also raise the issue of cross-border infiltration," Gogoi said in a statement.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma wants more 'border haats' (markets) along the India-Bangladesh border.

"Modi can discuss with Hasina about a strategy to develop road connectivity between northeast India and Bangladesh and to use Chittagong port for exports," Sangma told IANS over telephone.

On June 7, Modi and Hasina would, over video conferencing, jointly inaugurate a 'border haat' at Kamalasagar in western Tripura's Sipahijala district, which borders Brahmanbaria district of Bangladesh.

The 'border haat' will be the second in Tripura and the fourth on the India-Bangladesh border. The Indian commerce ministry is footing the cost of the border haats to boost trade in local produce.

Modi and Hasina are to flag off two bus services: between Agartala and Kolkata via Bangladesh as well as between Dhaka and Guwahati via Meghalaya capital Shillong and Bangladeshi city Sylhet.

The trial runs have already been conducted.

Both sides are likely to ink an agreement on coastal shipping and effective use of water ways, on tackling human trafficking, besides operationalizing the historic land (enclaves) swap agreement.

"Setting up Special Economic Zones in Bangladesh by India is likely to be discussed," a Bangladesh official told IANS on the condition of anonymity.

Noted economist Sekhar Paul told IANS: "Economic cooperation between India and Bangladesh must go hand in hand with strong political support."

Modi met Hasina on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September and at the 18th SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in November.

India shares a 4,096-km border, including 1,116-km riverine one, with Bangladesh, the longest border India has with any of its neighbours.

Besides West Bengal (2,216 km), the four northeastern states of Tripura (856 km), Meghalaya (443 km), Mizoram (318 km) and Assam (263 km) together share 1,880 km of border with Bangladesh.

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