India, Bangladesh focus on management of water resources, food security
India and Bangladesh on Sunday agreed to deepen cooperation in the management of common rivers and water resources, food security, sustainable trade, climate change, renewable energy and cybersecurity.
A meeting of the bilateral joint consultative commission co-chaired in New Delhi by external affairs minister S Jaishankar and his Bangladesh counterpart AK Abdul Momen also called for the safe, speedy and sustainable return of displaced Rohingyas from Myanmar’s Rakhine state who are currently being sheltered by Bangladesh.
The ministers also reviewed all ongoing cooperation, including the implementation of decisions made during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Dhaka in March 2021 and the virtual summit in December 2020.
The ministers directed their officials to accelerate cooperation and focus on “addressing issues and finding durable solutions for the mutual benefit of both the peoples”, a joint press statement issued after the meeting said.
In his opening remarks at the meeting, Jaishankar said India looks forward to working with Bangladesh in new domains such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, start-ups and fintech. India will also expand cooperation for upgrading Bangladesh’s railway system, he said.
Noting that the two countries share 54 cross-border rivers, Jaishankar said the comprehensive management and conservation of these rivers and a shared environment responsibility, especially for the Sundarbans, are “areas that we need to work together as part of our commitment to climate action”.
The press statement said the two ministers expressed satisfaction that, despite challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, both countries have worked closely in every sector, from security and border management to trade and investment flows. They have also enhanced bilateral and sub-regional multimodal connectivity and enhanced power and energy cooperation.
The ministers “agreed to work closely together to further deepen and strengthen cooperation in the areas of common rivers and water resources management, IT and cybersecurity, renewable energy, agriculture and food security, sustainable trade, climate change and disaster management”, the statement said.
“Both sides reiterated the importance of safe, speedy and sustainable return of the forcibly displaced persons from the Rakhine State of Myanmar, currently being sheltered by Bangladesh,” the statement added.
Bangladesh is currently sheltering more than 1.1 million Rohingyas who fled Rakhine state to escape persecution by the Myanmar Army. Senior Bangladeshi officials have repeatedly called on India and China to play a larger role to facilitate their repatriation.
Jaishankar conveyed India’s support and solidarity at the unprecedented flooding in northern Bangladesh. “We are now sharing flood management data for an extended period. I would like to take the opportunity to convey that if in any concrete way, we can be of assistance to you in the management of flood and relief efforts, we would be very glad to be supportive,” he said.
Besides working jointly on the proposed Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) motor vehicles agreement, India is also looking at sub-regional cooperation in power, especially hydropower, he said. “We would be very happy to work with Bangladesh to structure a progressive partnership in the areas of production, transmission and trade,” he added.