Strengthening Ties between India & Bangladesh

The virtual summit with Bangladesh saw Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina discussing a multitude of bilateral issues ranging from trade to cultural ties

December 20, 2020

Virtual Summit with Bangladesh in December 2020 to boost bilateral ties.

Discussion with Bangladesh to boost connectivity, trade, cultural exchanges and cooperation against COVID-19.

Agreements to enhance cooperation on water resources, energy, and power.

Constant engagement is key to deeper bilateral cooperation but also enhancing the shared history, values, and deep cultural tie.

On 17th December 2020, India held a virtual summit with Bangladesh to further bilateral ties. Prime Minister Modi and  PM Sheikh Hasina of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh participated in the event where both leaders exchanged views on various aspects of bilateral relations.  Both nations acknowledged their deep ties that extend even beyond India’s role in the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971.  The focus was on upholding and protecting the cherished values of democracy and equality in line with the aspirations of the people of the two friendly countries.

In light of the COVID-19 situation, both countries expressed continued support to fighting together against this unprecedented pandemic. The leaders expressed satisfaction over maintaining uninterrupted supply chains during COVID-19, which helped facilitate bilateral trade through existing rail routes, using side-door container and parcel trains. India also offered collaboration in therapeutics and partnership in vaccine production. Bangladesh appreciated India’s conducting capacity building courses for medical professionals in Bangla language.

In addition, the highly fruitful summit also resulted in the signing of various agreements and MOUs such as an MOU on Indian Grant Assistance for the implementation of High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs) through public sector institutions and local bodies. There was also an MOU as on the Supply of Equipment and Improvement of Garbage / Solid Waste Disposal Ground at Lamchori Area for Barishal City Corporation as well as a protocol on trans-boundary elephant conservation.  

Easing Bilateral Trade 

Bangladeshi exports to India enjoy duty free and quota free access under The South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) since 2011. Further to this, there was an agreement on addressing issues around non-tariff barriers and trade facilitation including port restrictions, procedural bottlenecks, and quarantine restrictions. The India-Bangladesh Textile Industry Forum can help facilitate increased linkages and collaboration in the textile sector.  

Prime Minister Modi will join the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s Independence, which also marks 50 years of Bangladesh-India diplomatic relations, in March 2021. 

Both Prime Ministers also recognised the need to expedite the ongoing joint study on the feasibility of a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), given the immense potential of bilateral economic and commercial ties. 

Boosting Connectivity

Better connectivity via railways, water, and road, was also discussed. This included issues such as the second addendum to the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT), early operationalisation of the BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement, and Bangladesh’s possible support for the ongoing India Myanmar Thailand trilateral highway project.  The commencement of a temporary Air Travel Bubble between the two sides to facilitate the urgent requirements of travelers on both sides was also acknowledged. 

The two leaders also jointly inaugurated the newly restored railway link between Haldibari (India) and Chilahati (Bangladesh) which is expected to further strengthen trade and people to people ties between the two sides. There was also agreement on the need to  quickly operationalise trans-shipment of Indian goods through Chattogram and Mongla Ports.

India also stressed on the need for at least one Land Port with minimal negative list between the each neighbouring states of India and Bangladesh, such as Agartala-Akhaura. 

Water, Power, Energy

The two leaders also discussed cooperation on water resources, power, and energy including projects such as India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline and Maitree Super Thermal Power Project. Another significant development was the adoption of a Framework of Understanding on Cooperation in the Hydrocarbon Sector. The Framework not only allows for streamlining investments, technology transfer, joint studies, training and promoting hydrocarbon connectivity, it will also enhance cooperation in energy efficiency and clean energy, including in biofuels. 

India reiterated its commitment towards the early signing of an interim agreement for sharing of the Teesta waters. Both leaders also agreed on the early conclusion of Framework of Interim Agreement on sharing of waters of six joint rivers, namely, Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina were also in agreement about the need to continue working together towards issues such as achieving early reforms of the UN Security Council, combating climate change, attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and protection of the rights of migrants. 

With India’s deep commitment to ensuring regional peace and prosperity, building these strategic relationships with Asian neighbours is important. Constant engagement with Bangladesh will not only help facilitate deeper bilateral cooperation but also enhance the shared history, values, and deep cultural ties.