Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday. Modi also met Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and his Nepal counterpart Sushil Koirala.
Modi is learnt to have discussed a host of bilateral and regional issues at his meeting with Rajapaksa. “The meeting was cordial and good. We talked about various issues,” Rajapaksa said. The two countries are looking at bringing a qualitative difference to their relationship.
Though India has been insisting on Colombo pursuing the devolution of power commitment to give equal rights to the Tamil minorities — consistent with the India-Sri Lanka accord, there hasn’t been much progress on that front. With reports that President Mahinda Rajapaksa may go for an early election, implementing that policy would not be easy from his domestic political point of view.
Ties with Bangladesh
Despite the recent buoyancy in ties, India and Bangladesh are struggling to make progress on two key issues — the land boundary agreement (LBA) and the Teesta water pact.
The LBA awaits the nod of Indian Parliament and a bill for the same is under the consideration of the standing committee on the external affairs ministry. When they were in opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party had major reservations on the bill. The Teesta water sharing pact is yet to get a go-ahead from the West Bengal chief minister Mamta Banerjee.
But there are many silver linings in the ties between New Delhi and Dhaka. At $6 billon, Bangladesh is India’s largest trading partner in South Asia.
The trade imbalance is set to come down with Dhaka recently clearing a proposal for a special economic zone (SEZ) for Indian industries. Nuclear and space are two new areas of cooperation between the two countries. Bangladesh was the first country Sushma Swaraj visited as country’s external affairs minister.