India-Bangladesh foreign ministers likely to meet in Guwahati

Published on May 05, 2022 06:31 PM IST

India-Bangladesh foreign ministers are set to participate in the “River Conclave Nadi 3” in Guwahati during May 28-29. There are plans for S Jaishankar and AK Abdul Momen to meet on the margins of the conclave.

This will be the first time the foreign ministers of India and Bangladesh will hold talks in Assam and outside the national capital. (File Photo/PTI)
This will be the first time the foreign ministers of India and Bangladesh will hold talks in Assam and outside the national capital. (File Photo/PTI)

NEW DELHI: External affairs minister S Jaishankar and his Bangladesh counterpart AK Abdul Momen are expected to hold a meeting on the margins of a regional conclave to be held in Guwahati later this month, people familiar with the matter said.

Both foreign ministers are set to participate in the “River Conclave Nadi 3”, which is being organised in Assam’s main city during May 28-29 by Asian Confluence, a Shillong-based think tank.

The conclave, which will also be attended by diplomats and officials of regional countries, will focus on sub-regional cooperation in the Bay of Bengal and Southeast Asia. It is set to be inaugurated by Jaishankar and there will also be discussions on the management of rivers and water resources in the region.

There are plans for Jaishankar and Momen to meet on the margins of the conclave, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday. If the meeting goes ahead, this will be the first time the foreign ministers of the two countries will hold talks in Assam and outside the national capital.

The people said such a meeting will help showcase Bangladesh’s key role in India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy and its importance in connectivity and economic initiatives focused on the northeastern states.

Several cross-border rail links revived by the two countries in recent years benefit the northeastern states, both for trade and people-to-people contacts. During Jaishankar’s visit to Dhaka on April 28, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina offered Bangladesh’s main port of Chittagong for use by northeastern states such as Assam and Tripura.

At the meeting with Jaishankar, Hasina also emphasised the need to enhance connectivity between Bangladesh and the northeastern states for the mutual benefit of both sides.

Several connectivity initiatives have focused on reviving rail and riverine links that were snapped during the India-Pakistan war of 1965, when Bangladesh was East Pakistan. The cross-border rail links played a crucial role in shipping goods to Bangladesh during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The planned meeting between the two foreign ministers will also help prepare the grounds for Hasina’s visit to India in the second half of the year. Jaishankar handed over an invitation from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Hasina to visit New Delhi during their meeting. Though both countries are yet to announce any dates, she is expected to visit in July.

Ahead of Hasina’s visit, the two sides will hold a meeting of the Joint Consultative Commission in New Delhi to make a comprehensive assessment of bilateral relations.

Bangladesh is also one of the biggest beneficiaries of Indian development aid, especially fir connectivity and energy projects.

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