PM Modi to travel to Bangladesh on March 26, his first visit abroad in 15 months

By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Mar 08, 2021 04:22 PM IST

PM Modi will travel to Dhaka to join celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh's independence in 1971

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will make an overnight visit to Bangladesh on March 26 to join celebrations in the neighbouring country to mark the 50th anniversary of its freedom in 1971, people aware of the matter said.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, during the virtual summit with PM Modi in December, had stressed that India was Bangladesh's 'true friend".(HT Photo/Mohd Zakir)
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, during the virtual summit with PM Modi in December, had stressed that India was Bangladesh's 'true friend".(HT Photo/Mohd Zakir)

The two-day trip to Dhaka will be PM Modi’s first foreign visit in 15 months and is seen to reflect New Delhi’s emphasis on its ties with Bangladesh which PM Modi has described as “an important pillar” of India's neighbourhood first’ policy. He last travelled abroad In November 2019 and like everyone else, had to scrap his travel plans over the last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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PM Modi will be the chief guest at the main event organised by the Sheikh Hasina government to commemorate Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declaring erstwhile East Pakistan as an independent country, Bangladesh, on March 26, 1971. India sided with Bangladesh and helped defeat Pakistani forces who eventually surrendered on December 16, 1971.

External affairs minister S Jaishankar was in Dhaka last week to prepare for PM Modi visit called the deepening strategic ties between the two countries as a “360-degree partnership” and stressed that PM Modi’s visit will surely be a “very memorable” visit.

The visit comes at a time, Indian officials said, when there was tremendous goodwill for the Indian government and its people in Bangladesh on account of New Delhi going the extra mile to make the coronavirus vaccine available to the neighbouring country.

New Delhi has supplied 9 million doses of Covid vaccine to Dhaka including 2 million doses as a gift from the people of India. The remaining 7 million doses were sent on a commercial basis after Bangladesh decided to rely on the Indian vaccines rather than the vaccine pushed by Beijing.

“India has kept the promise that it had made,” a senior government official said, a reference to PM Modi’s assurance to Sheikh Hasina during their virtual summit in December. PM Modi had assured her that the vaccines will be made available to Bangladesh as and when India produces them, and also offered a partnership in vaccine production.

It was at this summit that Sheikh Hasina had declared that “India is our true friend”.

Officials said it was on account of New Delhi delivering on its commitment that Jaishankar returned from Dhaka last week with the sense that Bangladesh’s opposition parties, which are often critical or suspicious of New Delhi, appreciated India’s move.

There are not big-ticket agreements planned during PM Modi’s visit. The two countries had signed seven agreements in areas ranging from hydrocarbons to agriculture at the Modi-Hasina summit in December.

Tomorrow, he will inaugurate via video conference, the 'Maitri Setu', a bridge built over the Feni river, between India and Bangladesh.

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    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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