PM Modi set to visit Bangladesh on March 17 to bolster ties
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the chief guest at an event to kick-start the year-long centenary celebrations for “Bangabandhu” Sheikh Mujibur Rehman in Dhaka on March 17 in a move that signals the robust bilateral relations between India and its eastern neighbour.
Officials familiar with the developments told HT that Modi is expected to reach Dhaka the day before the function, and will be the main speaker for 100th birth anniversary of Mujibur Rehman, the founder of Bangladesh. Mujibur Rehman was also the father of incumbent Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Modi’s visit will come at a time when relations appeared frayed over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, a new legislation that eases the path to naturalisation for religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who came to India before 2015. The move, along with the 2019 National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, was linked to illegal infiltration from Bangladesh in several northeastern states.
Three Bangladesh ministers called off trips to India for different reasons since the CAA was passed by the Indian Parliament on December 11, 2019. But Prime Minister Hasina, in an interview to Gulf News on January 20, said that while CAA was “not necessary” it was India’s “internal matter”. India, in his annual Republic Day honours list this year, conferred the country’s third-highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan, to two Bangladeshi nationals – the late Syed Muazzem Ali, a 1971 war veteran and previous High Commissioner to India, and renowned academic and museologist Enamul Haq. Experts said that Modi’s visit suggests the relationship between the two countries remains strong despite CAA and NRC.
During Hasina’s tenure, India has breathed at ease on its eastern front, with the Bangladesh government taking strong action against pan-Islamic terrorists and radical groups such as the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh. Both the countries closely cooperate on the border with annual interactions and regular information exchanges between the Border Security Force (BSF) and Bangladesh Rifles (BDR).
While India encourages close defence cooperation and fulfils the energy needs of Dhaka, the Hasina government is working towards allowing New Delhi the use of its Chittagong and Mongla sea ports for the transportation of goods to and from the land-locked north-eastern states.