As Bangladesh gears up to welcome Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday, expectations are running high on both sides to take their bilateral ties to a new level.
Modi’s two-day visit to Dhaka starting June 6 comes weeks after India approved the long-standing Land Boundary Agreement (LBA), but further strengthening of ties on trade and connectivity will get a higher priority.
A diplomat in Dhaka said Modi’s visit “comes at a watershed moment in our bilateral relations”, especially after the approval of the LBA by India.
Though the Teesta water-sharing pact is off the table, New Delhi has lined up enough to match Modi’s promise to his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina (when he met her in New York on the sidelines of UN General Assembly last year) that he would visit the country with “achhi khabar” (good news).
A file photo of PM Narendra Modi with Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina (HT Photo)
The good news would include fresh financial assistance, connectivity plans, new border markets, investments, stepping up security and defence cooperation and a political message that excellent ties with Dhaka is an important aspect of the Modi’s foreign policy.
Modi and Hasina will flag off two bus services on the Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala and the Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati routes. The two sides are keen to revive their pre-1965 railway links and sign a coastal shipping agreement to facilitate small vessels from India to sail into Bangladeshi ports.
On the Teesta waters issue, officials in Dhaka say that Banerjee’s presence in the PM’s delegation would surely give them a chance to follow up on the commitment given during her visit to Dhaka earlier this year.
Modi will also receive the "Friends of Bangladesh Liberation War Award" to former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee for his outstanding support for the country’s independence from Pakistan in 1971. The Indian PM will also address a function at the Dhaka University and visit Dhakeshwari temple and the memorial of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of nation of Bangladesh.