India, Bangladesh Ink Pact to Boost Ties in Maritime Sphere, Blue Economy

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LOOKEAST REPORT |

INDIA and Bangladesh moved to bolster their defense relationship and signed agreements for expanding cooperation in maritime security, ocean economy, space, and telecommunication sectors, as New Delhi tries to present itself as a regional power.

■ Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Crucial Visit to India | PIB

The agreements were signed during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India, the first foreign leader to visit New Delhi since Narendra Modi became the country’s prime minister for a third consecutive term.

Modi welcomed Bangladesh’s decision to join his Indo–Pacific Oceans Initiative to expand and facilitate regional cooperation of India’s maritime neighbors. He said the deals with Dhaka were part of his country’s pursuit of a neighborhood–first approach.

 

Modi welcomed Bangladesh’s decision to join his Indo–Pacific Oceans Initiative to expand and facilitate regional cooperation of India’s maritime neighbors. He said the deals with Dhaka were part of his country’s pursuit of a neighborhood–first approach

 

At the invitation of, prime minister Narendra Modi, Sheikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh paid a State Visit to India on 21 – 22 June 2024. In their wide–ranging discussions, the two leaders recognised that India–Bangladesh partnership, which is founded on deep historical, linguistic, cultural, and economic linkages has strengthened in the last decade inspired by the spirit of their shared sacrifices of 1971 and guided by their new aspirations of the 21st century. This is reflective of an all–encompassing partnership that transcends a strategic partnership, built upon shared values and interests, equality, trust and understanding and rooted in mutual sensitivity to each other’s aspirations and concerns.

To realise the immense potential of this extra–ordinary relationship and to turn it into a transformational partnership for mutual benefits and prosperity of their people and the entire region, the two Leaders have jointly articulated their following Shared Vision for peace, prosperity and development of the two neighbors and the entire region, driven by connectivity, commerce and collaboration:

■ Indian Railways pushes North–East connectivity via Bangladesh. This initiative, spanning over 1275.50 km, includes the construction of new railway lines and gauge conversions. The project is anticipated to accelerate trade connectivity and improve passenger services in the region | File Photo

  • Two neighbouring countries shared the conviction that the progress and prosperity are interlinked and reaffirm of mutual desire to guide India–Bangladesh ties to a new era of future–oriented partnership, for which they recognise each other as indispensable partners in realising their respective national development visions of “Viksit Bharat 2047” and “Smart Bangladesh Vision 2041”.
  • As a close and valued neighbour with rapidly growing capabilities, Bangladesh is at the converging point of India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy, “Act East” policy, SAGAR doctrine and the Indo–Pacific vision, and an indispensable partner in the development of India’s northeastern region. On the other hand, Bangladesh values its relationship with India as the closest and friendly neighbor. Bangladesh considers India as an important partner in the pursuit of its Neighborhood Foreign Policy for ensuring shared peace and prosperity.

 

India, committed to early operationalisation of the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement to promote sub–regional connectivity. A new MOU on Railway Connectivity as well as the decision to commence goods–train service from Gede — Darshana through Chilahati — Haldibari up to Hasimara via Dalgaon railhead (as and when operationalised) at the India — Bhutan border

 

  • Both Bangladesh and India will pursue a transformative partnership that advances the shared interests in promoting multi–faceted connectivity for both countries as well as the entire region by transforming geographical proximity into new economic opportunities. This will include connectivity in its broadest form — physical connectivity covering multi–modal transport and cross–border trade & transit infrastructure for seamless cross–border movement of people, goods and services, as well as energy connectivity and digital connectivity.
  • As part of sub–regional connectivity initiatives, India will extend transit facilities for movement of Bangladesh goods to Nepal and Bhutan through railway network. India, committed to early operationalisation of the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement to promote sub–regional connectivity. A new MOU on Railway Connectivity as well as the decision to commence goods–train service from Gede — Darshana through Chilahati — Haldibari up to Hasimara via Dalgaon railhead (as and when operationalised) at the India — Bhutan border.
  • It will continue to expand power and energy collaboration and together develop intra-regional electricity trade, including of competitively–priced power generated from clean energy projects in India, Nepal and Bhutan, through the Indian electricity grid. It will expedite the construction of 765 kV high–capacity interconnection between Katihar — Parbatipur — Bornagar with suitable Indian financial assistance, to act as the anchor for grid connectivity.

 

As a close and valued neighbour with rapidly growing capabilities, Bangladesh is at the converging point of India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy, “Act East” policy, SAGAR doctrine and the Indo–Pacific vision, and an indispensable partner in the development of India’s northeastern region

 

  • Underlining the pivotal role played by emerging technologies to build inclusive, sustainable and digitally empowered societies and to bring larger benefits to people of both countries, to forging a new paradigm for future–oriented partnership through a “Shared Vision for India — Bangladesh Digital Partnership” and “Shared Vision for India — Bangladesh Green Partnership for a Sustainable Future” in line with respective broader Vision of “Viksit Bharat 2047” and “Smart Bangladesh Vision 2041”. These will build a transformative collaboration between India and Bangladesh by leveraging green and digital technologies to foster economic growth, sustainable and climate–resilient development, environmental conservation, cross–border digital interchange and regional prosperity. Both Bangladesh and India will also pursue collaboration in frontier technologies, including civil nuclear, oceanography and space technology. To this end, it will partner in joint development of a small satellite for Bangladesh and its launch using Indian launch vehicle.

■ Maitry Setu | The initiation of goods movement through the bridge is considered strategically significant, not only for Tripura but also for the entire northeast region | File Photo

  • Resolving to work towards promoting the prosperity of both nation, it will strengthen trade and investment linkages with each other, including through early commencement of negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), early operationalisation of two Special Economic Zones (SEZs) offered by Bangladesh to India in Mongla and Mirsharai, opening of new border–haats, trade facilitation to enhance bilateral trade, improving road, rail, air, and maritime connectivity and trade infrastructure which can transform geographical proximity into new economic opportunities for peoples of both nations. It will also encourage and support private sector to seek new investment opportunities in each other’s priority areas of economic development.
  • Recognising the importance of water resource management in bilateral relationship of India and Bangladesh, it will continue to engage in prioritising the exchange of data and formulating the framework for interim water sharing based on the recommendations of the Joint Rivers Commission. Both India and Bangladesh welcomes the formation of a Joint Technical Committee to initiate discussions for the renewal of the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty of 1996. As part of development cooperation, it will also undertake conservation and management of Teesta River inside Bangladesh with Indian assistance within a mutually agreed timeframe.

 

Immense potential of this extra–ordinary relationship and to turn it into a transformational partnership for mutual benefits and prosperity of their people and the entire region, the two Leaders have jointly articulated their following Shared Vision for peace, prosperity and development of the two neighbors and the entire region, driven by connectivity, commerce and collaboration

 

  • Appreciating the significant role of the two countries in ensuring peace, stability and harmony in the region, to strengthen defence cooperation with a long–term perspective. In line with the plans for modernisation of the Bangladesh Armed Forces, to explore defence industrial cooperation for modernisation of the Armed Forces of Bangladesh, and strengthen their capability for defence. India will continue to work closely with Bangladesh for our multifaceted military engagements of exercises, training and capability development.
  • Both the countries will further bolster India — Bangladesh development cooperation by concluding a new Framework Agreement for Development Partnership, which will expand the reach of projects and programmes in line with the priorities of the people and the Government of Bangladesh and Government of India long–term vision of closer connectivity. It will work together to expand capacity building programme for civil services, judicial officers, police and other specialised services of Bangladesh.
  • Recognising the shared cultural and historical heritage and vibrant people–to–people ties, we will nurture the existing linkages by promoting exchanges of Muktijoddhas, scholars, academics, artistes, tourists, students and youth. It will further raise the level of support to the valiant Muktijoddhas and their families, with new programmes for medical and educational support.

 

Both Bangladesh and India will also pursue collaboration in frontier technologies, including civil nuclear, oceanography and space technology. To this end, it will partner in joint development of a small satellite for Bangladesh and its launch using Indian launch vehicle

 

  • To facilitate easier cross–border travel and as a supportive gesture to the friendly people of Bangladesh, India will extend e–Medical Visa facility to people from Bangladesh travelling to India for medical treatment. India agreed to open a new Assistant High Commission of India in Rangpur as a step to facilitate expeditious consular and visa services for the people of north–west region of Bangladesh.
  • Based on availability and to the best of its abilities, India will also support Bangladesh with supply of essential commodities.
  • India recognise the imperative of accelerating partnership in sectors which promote youth development through education, skilling, entrepreneurship, technology, sports and creative and cultural industries. The India–Bangladesh partnership will respond to the expectations and aspirations of youth of both the countries for a better future.

■ General Waker–Uz–Zaman officially takes charge as the new chief of the Bangladesh Army on June 23, 2024 | ISPR

  • Recognising the contribution of partnership to peace, security and stability in the region, both India and Bangladesh reiterate its commitment to a free, open, inclusive, secure, and rules–based Indo–Pacific region. Based on converging visions for the Indo–Pacific region and recognising the vulnerability of the region to adverse impacts of climate change, both India and Bangladesh will co–lead the ‘Disaster Risk Reduction and Management’ pillar of the Indo Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), and cooperate to mitigate disaster risks, build disaster resilient infrastructure, and contribute to the sustenance of shared maritime region.

 

A new Framework Agreement for Development Partnership, which will expand the reach of projects and programmes in line with the priorities of the people and the Government of Bangladesh and Government of India long–term vision of closer connectivity. It will work together to expand capacity building programme for civil services, judicial officers, police and other specialised services of Bangladesh

 

  • With wide–ranging bilateral cooperation, it also envisions India — Bangladesh relationship to become a major anchor for regional and sub–regional integration under the BIMSTEC, SAARC and IORA architectures. It will work together on global platforms to promote common interests, especially the interests of Global South.

Both the neighbours need to take a deeper and higher quality relationship based on mutual trust and benefit in the coming days. To confident that this Shared Vision for Future will provide further impetus to strengthening historic ties and building a future–ready partnership by further developing the current ‘Sonaali Adhyaay’ in bilateral relations. ■

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