The outcome of parliamentary election in Bangladesh will hugely impact India. It must, therefore, strengthen Sheikh Hasina's position as the BNP’s return to power is bound to spell trouble
As parliamentary elections approach in Bangladesh — polls are due by December end — India must ponder the implications of the possible outcome. While the odds seem to favour Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League’s return to power for the third time in succession, New Delhi cannot rule out an upset victory by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led by Begum Khaleda Zia.
The first thing to recognise is that while the Awami League Governments have been friendly towards India, the coalition Government, headed by the BNP and the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh (Jamaat) from 2001 to 2006, was intensely hostile and the BNP Government in power from 1991 to 1996, marginally less so. One may cite here an instance of the difference in their attitudes towards this country and another of the BNP’s proneness to use every possible occasion to whip up anti-India sentiments.
As to the first, both BNP and the BNP-Jamaat-led coalition Governments had vigorously continued the policy of the preceding military dictatorships of providing shelter, funds, weapons and training to secessionist insurgent groups of north-eastern India like the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), the All-Tripura Tiger Force, the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) of Manipur, and the National-Socialist Council of Nagaland (Issac-Muivah)-NSCN (I-M).
Bangladesh’s BNP-Jamaat coalition Government not only sheltered and provided these groups but mocked at India’s well-documented claims of its doing so. The country’s then Foreign Minister, Morshed Khan, provided a striking example of this during his speech inaugurating the ‘India-Bangladesh Dialogue of Young Journalists’ at Dhaka on September 7, 2004. Referring to India’s claim that North-East Indian insurgents had 195 camps in Bangladesh, he had said, “The list of insurgent camps from their side increases at every meeting between us. But they have not been able to provide a single telephone number or address of these camps.”
Even while dismissing India’s claim about the insurgent camps, Morshed Khan, let slip a remark, suggesting that Bangladesh knew that India was vulnerable in the north-eastern States. He said during the same September speech, that though Bangladesh was “India-locked”, Delhi had “also to remember that its north-eastern States” were “Bangladesh-locked.” Not only that, reflecting the Khaleda Zia Government’s policy of stoking disaffection and secessionism in the region, he had said in the speech, “It costs 40 per cent more for north-eastern India’s States to buy most construction goods from Kolkata or other western cities than it would have cost them to buy those from Bangladesh.” He also blasted the “Central Bank of India” (the Reserve Bank of India?) for acting unilaterally against the interests of the common people of north-eastern States by imposing non-tariff barriers such as not allowing individual States to open Letters of Credit without Delhi’s permission.
It is hardly surprising that with an important Minister speaking mockingly and minatorily, lesser functionaries would also do the same. Thus, Major-General Mohammad Jahangir Alam Khan Chowdhury, the then Director-General of the para-military Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) — now Border Guards Bangladesh — visiting India for talks with the then Director-General of India’s Border Security Force (BSF), Ajay Raj Sharma, had said in Delhi on September 28, 2004, “There is not a single [insurgent] camp in Bangladesh. We looked for camps’ locations given in the BSF’s list. Some of the addresses were of our cantonment area and our headquarters. Some of these addresses even pertained to the Bay of Bengal.”
In sharp contrast, Sheikh Hasina has closed down insurgent camps in Bangladesh and handed over to India several important rebel leaders, exposing as lies what the BNP leaders had been saying about the camps as well as the fact that they were actively supporting secessionist insurgencies in India’s North-East.
The second instance is the turn the BNP-Jamaat Government sought to give to the grenade attack on the Awami League’s rally in Dhaka on August 21, 2004. Held to protest against bomb attacks on Awami League supporters in Sylhet in north-eastern Bangladesh, the murder of Tushar, a leader of the party’s students’ organisation, Bangladesh Chhatra League, and atrocities on its leaders and supporters throughout the country, it was addressed by Sheikh Hasina, then president, Awami League, and the leader of the Opposition in Bangladesh’s Jatiya Sansad or National Parliament, and attended by most of the party’s presidium members, and the president and general secretary of the Mahanagar (Metropolitan, ie Dhaka) Awami League.
A deadly grenade attack began just after Sheikh Hasina had finished her speech, severely condemnatory of the actions of the BNP-Jamaat coalition Government, and was about to leave the venue. The time was 5.22 pm. It was cold-blooded slaughter. The number of the dead eventually rose to 24, and of the wounded to over 300. The aim was to hobble the Awami League by wiping out its top leadership. Sheikh Hasina had a close shave but had her hearing impaired. Several critically-injured senior leaders of the party were hospitalised. One of them, Ivy Rahman, leader of the Awami League’s womens’ affairs wing and wife of Zillur Rahman, then general secretary of the Awami League and later President of Bangladesh, died in hospital on August 24.
There was sharp criticism at home and abroad. The BNP-Jamaat Government ordered an inquiry into the outrage. Joinul Abedin, a former High Court judge heading it, was asked to submit a report within three weeks. Abedin, a former BNP leader who was appointed without any consultation with the opposition, submitted his report on October 2, 2004. It was not made public. He, however, said at a Press briefing just before submitting the report that neither the BNP nor the Awami League nor Jamaat, nor any other fundamentalist Islamist organisation, was responsible for the attack; agents of a foreign country were. Abedin did not identify the foreign country or its agents but through innuendoes and false associations, clearly suggested that it was India.
Subsequent developments have exposed the hollowness of Abedin’s observations. As long, however, as the BNP-Jamaat Government was in power, the investigation seemed to be deliberately not focusing on the guilty and the forces behind them, failing to frame a young man, Shoibal Shaha Partho, they forced one Joi Miah to confess that a criminal gang called Seven Star Group had carried out the attack.
Genuine investigations began after Bangladesh’s Army had staged a coup on January 12, 2007, and replaced by a new one the BNP-Jamaat Government-appointed caretaker Government for holding the parliamentary elections. These concluded that the terrorist organisation Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) Bangladesh had carried out the attack, which, according to Syed Rezaur Rahman, the chief prosecutor in the case that followed, was orchestrated by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate and the BNP-Jamaat coalition Government, which used the Bangladesh’s Ministry of Home Affairs, Directorate-General of Forces’ Intelligence (DGFI), National Security Intelligence (NSI) and the Bangladesh Police to implement the plot.
Included among the 49 persons — 19 of whom are absconding — now being tried are personnel from the above organisations as well as BNP leaders like Tarique Rahman, Begum Khaleda Zia’s son, Luftozzaman Babar, state Minister for Home and Abdus Salam Pintu, a Deputy Minister, in the BNP-Jamaat-led Government. There was no mention of India or any of its agents.
There are issues. Many in India are uneasy about Bangladesh’s growing ties with China — Hasina’s assurances that India has nothing to worry on this score, notwithstanding. The BNP’s return to power, however, will mean a hostile Government in Dhaka attempting, among other things, to foment trouble in the North East, and acting as a launching pad for the ISI’s terror strikes in India. New Delhi must, therefore, consider measures to strengthen Sheikh Hasina’s position within Bangladesh. An accord on Teesta waters could be a good beginning.
India, Bangladesh sign agreement on oil pipeline, discuss Teesta water issue
India and Bangladesh today signed six MoUs, including one for the construction of a 129.5 km-long oil pipeline between Siliguri and Parbatipur, and discussed the Teesta water sharing issue as well as the Rohingya refugee crisis.
Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and his Bangladeshi counterpart Md Shahidul Haque discussed many bilateral and international issues during delegation-level talks.
"Six MoUs including India-Bangladesh Friendship pipeline between Siliguri & Parbatipur, agreement between Department of Atomic Energy, India and Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, were signed during the visit," the Indian High Commission in Dhaka tweeted.
"This is part of our endeavour to undertake projects in Bangladesh in various socio-economic sectors, including education, culture, health, community welfare, road infrastructure etc, for which we are providing 1,600 crore taka under grant financing," the Indian foreign secretary said.
The MoU on oil pipeline is aimed at pumping diesel from India to Bangladesh with a capacity of 1 million tonnes per annum. "The MoU focuses on deepening bilateral cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector and the mutual benefits for both sides that would accrue from the proposed construction of approximate 129.5 km long oil pipeline from the Siliguri Marketing Terminal of the Numaligarah Refinery Ltd (NRL) in India to the Parbaripur depot of the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC)," the brief description of the MoU read.
The other MoUs are on cooperation between Prasar Bharati and Bangladesh Betar, installation of an Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) Urdu Chair in Dhaka University, Addendum to the GCNEP-BAEC Interagency Agreement, grant projects to set up language labs in 500 schools in Bangladesh and upgrade different roads in Rangpur city.
An addendum was signed relating to Inter-Agency agreement between Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP) of India's atomic energy department and Bangladesh's atomic energy commission.
Gokhale said Delhi remained a "committed development partner" of Dhaka and has extended lines of credit of over USD 8 billion to Bangladesh in the last seven years.
"This is the largest amount of credit India has ever committed to any single country....We are confident that this credit will be useful to Bangladesh as it pursues its developmental priorities," he said. Gokhale also cited Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks that Bangladesh and India are not just "pass pass" (close to each other) but also "saath saath" (together).
India also extended full support to Bangladesh's efforts for resolving the Rohingya crisis, including the early repatriation of the displaced people to Myanmar. "India has been fully supportive of the efforts being made to resolve the crisis, including early repatriation of the displaced people," Gokhale said in a statement following a meeting with his Bangladesh counterpart M Shahidul Haque on the second day of his three-day Dhaka tour.
Gokhale said India sent relief materials for 300,000 Rohingyas in September last year under 'Operation Insaniyat' to support Bangladesh in its humanitarian efforts. He also announced New Delhi's plans for the second phase of such assistance.
He said the assistance included field hospitals with all facilities to extend women and child healthcare while the relief supplies planned for the second phase included milk powder, baby food, dried fish, cooking stoves and cooking fuel, raincoats and gumboots.
"On the Myanmar side, we are providing socio-economic support under our Rakhine State Development Programme including construction of pre-fabricated housing in order to meet the needs of the returning people," he added.
Bangladesh appreciated the Indian gesture on the issue. "We are very happy the way our friend from India is looking at this [Rohingya] issue, looking to peacefully resolve the issue," Haque said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had recently asked India to put pressures on Myanmar for repatriation of over a million of Rohingyas fearing their prolonged stay in Bangladesh could create militancy related security risks.
Haque said the two discussed all aspects of the relations between the two nations, including the pending Teesta water sharing issue, and was "delighted" regarding the outcome.
Gokhale praised the progress in bilateral relations and said: "We assure you we are working hard internally to resolve the issue", B D News reported.
Bangladesh plans to import 9,000MW from neighbours
Although the government has made significant strides in power generation, a large number of people in Bangladesh are still living in the dark. The current electricity production is insufficient to meet the ever-growing demand. Now the government is planning to import power from the neighbouring country to meet the local demand and expand trade and commerce.
The Saarc countries are trying to start cross-border power trade. As part of the initiative, Bangladesh is planning to import 9,000 megawatt of electricity from India, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan by 2041, Power Division sources said.
They added Bangladesh is also interested in joint investment in hydroelectricity projects in these countries. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already approved $1 billion for investing in hydroelectricity in the neighbouring countries.
Bangladesh is in talks with India, Nepal and Bhutan. Works on a joint Bangladesh-India power plant is also underway, from where Dhaka will purchase electricity. Power Cell Director General Mohammad Hossain said electricity was essential for Bangladesh’s development. “Electricity produced domestically will not be enough. That is why the government is considering importing power from the neighbours,” he said.
“A long-term plan has been undertaken for this purpose. It will not only bring in electricity but also strengthen the neighbours’ commercial ties,” Hossain added. Power import will rise to 1,200MW within 2020. Gradually the amount will rise to 5,000MW in 2030 and 9,000MW in 2041.
A Power Division official has said that Bangladesh is going to jointly invest in Bhutan’s 1,125MW Kuri 1 hydropower project. India, Nepal and Bangladesh will be the project’s equal partners.
Bangladesh could also become part of several other power projects in that country. Jica is currently surveying these projects, the official said.
The Power Division said that Bangladesh would import 500MW power from Bhutan’s GMR project. The talks are in the final stages. The GMR is constructing the 900MW Upper Karnali plant. Dhaka is also trying to import electricity from other power plants in Bhutan. Meanwhile, Myanmar has the potential to produce 40,000MW hydroelectricity. The country is currently trying to set up a 10,000MW plant. Bangladesh plans to import 9,000MW from neighbours
PGCIL bags consultancy contract from Power Grid Company of Bangladesh
State-run transmission utility Power Grid Corp today said it has bagged project management consultancy contract of Rs 21 crore from Power Grid Company of Bangladesh.
"Power Grid has secured Project Management Consultancy Contract for construction of 1x500 MW HVDC Back to Back Station at Comilla North (Bangladesh) to transfer power through Surjamaninagar (India) Comilla North (Bangladesh) with an estimated project cost of Rs 1,064 crore and consultancy fee of Rs 21 crore from Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB)," a Power Grid Corp of India statement said.
World Bank casts doubt on Bangladesh's GDP growth forecast The World Bank has its doubt about the Bangladesh government’s 7.65 percent economic growth projection for the ongoing fiscal year.
“Remittance inflows have recovered somewhat. But, it remains lower than expected,” said Washington-based global lender's lead economist in Dhaka, Zahid Hussain. "So, where is the source of growth?” he asked.
In sharp contrast to the government’s growth estimate, Zahid said, “Private investment did not pick up the pace of what is required to attain the government’s projection.”
Presenting Bangladesh Development Update report on Monday, he said the BBS data shows the manufacturing sector grew 13.2 percent in last fiscal year over the previous fiscal, but only 200,000 jobs were generated, and private investment remained stagnant during the period.
“How does manufacturing industry expand so fast? This is the question.”
The lender slightly raised its forecast for Bangladesh’s economic growth in the fiscal 2017-18 to 6.5 to 6.6 percent from 6.4 percent it projected in January, according to the latest report.
The World Bank's report comes a week after national statistical agency BBS published data on the sector-wise contribution to the GDP in fiscal 2017-18.
According to the data, the domestic demand grew 7.65 percent on the back of manufacturing and construction sectors.
"Higher domestic demand is the driving force of manufacturing growth, but we do not see any spike in domestic demand as growth in the employment, labour income or remittances remained subdued," said Zahid Hussain. Where is the source of growth? WB asks casting doubt on Bangladesh's GDP projection - bdnews24.com
Dhaka plays critical role for India’s Southeast Asia outreach The history of bilateral relations between Indian and Bangladesh during the past decade bears testimony to the fact that the neighbouring country has emerged as one of India's closest partners and second to Bhutan in South Asia. While both the UPA government and NDA regime pursued its Bangladesh policy with same vigour,the presence of Sheikh Hasina as prime minister in Dhaka complemented India’s efforts.
And as Hasina completes 10 years in office and heads to another election, Delhi’s support will be critical as Bangladesh strives to emerge as a middle-income country and frontal state in the fight against terror.
From a period of confrontation when fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami dictated Bangladesh’s India policy, Dhaka is today the biggest recipient of India’s Line of Credit. From counter-terrorism to deradicalisation to defence partnership to connectivity initiatives across land and sea have grown strength to strength with the Opposition BNP's anti-India tirade getting blunt over the years.
The last four years in particular have been exemplary as Bangladesh has emerged as a key element in sub-regional connectivity initiatives with Pakistan refusing to play ball rendering SAARC ineffective. In 2016, when India decided to skip the SAARC Summit in Islamabad following spike in cross-border terror attacks, Bangladesh and Bhutan wasted no time in joining ranks in solidarity with India.
Though not emphasised enough, the role of Bangladesh is critical for India’s Act East Policy. India counts on Dhaka’s support in both Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) and Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) initiatives that complement Delhi’s Southeast Asia outreach.
The Indian public sector needs to take advantage of growing connectivity links as well as Bangladesh economy that would be a win-win for both states. Maritime connectivity link is another area that needs to be further expanded.
Conclusion of Teesta river water sharing treaty will be icing on the cake strengthening Hasina's position ahead of polls and in this context that presence of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Santiniketan was critical to say the least. Banerjee, who supported Centre on settling land boundary agreement with Bangladesh, has been intransigent in sharing waters of Teesta river on the ground that the state does not have enough water to share.
A political call, however, is necessary to conclude the treaty in wider national and bilateral interests. Simultaneously, India needs to up the ante on Myanmar to assist the common neighbour in the hour of crisis and reach am amicable settlement on the Rohingya issues by allowing them to return. Dhaka plays critical role for India’s Southeast Asia outreach
Strengthening ties: Bangladesh Coast Guard ship Tajuddin arrives at Visakhapatnam Port
A Bangladesh Coast Guard Ship arrived at the Visakhapatnam Port today.
The aim of the visit is to develop working level operation between Coast Guards of maritime nations and enhance inter-operability in the fields of maritime search and rescue, anti-piracy operations and other maritime law enforcement tasks, a coast guard release said today.
The ship, Tajuddin, has participated during the 10th Regional Co-operation Agreement (ReCAP) for safe and secure sea in February 2017,the release said.
During the period of stay at Vishakhapatnam, the Bangladesh delegation would be calling on senior Indian Coast Guard officials, it said.
Bangladesh 'very concerned' over China building dams on Brahmaputra
Amid reports of China trying to build dams over the mighty Brahmaputra river, Bangladesh today said it is "very concerned" about diversion of water and prepared to participate in a joint water basin management.
Bangladesh high commissioner to India Syed Muazzem Ali batted for joint-dredging of rivers and said the prime ministers of the two countries had an extensive discussions on the issue.
Responding to a question on China building dams on the Brahmaputra, he said: "On the Brahmaputra basin, we are very concerned about diversion of water and Bangladesh is prepared to join a joint basin management concept where we will discuss the points of water as it flows from the point of origin to the point of exit in the sea."
"And naturally, we will be very happy to fully cooperate with all regional joint agencies," he said.
Speaking to reporters at an interaction organised at the Indian Women Press Corps in New Delhi, he added Bangladesh believes in joint river basin management both in the Ganges and the Brahmaputra.
The Brahmaputra originates in Tibet. In China, it is known as Yarlung Zangbo. A major river, it enters Bangladesh, where it meets the Ganges and drains into the Bay of Bengal.
The envoy also sought to assuage India's concern amid reports of Bangladesh's growing proximity with China.
He said Dhaka's relationship with Beijing is primarily in the sphere of economics, trade and commerce.
"China has offered us lines of credit. But that is not free and we have to return it to them. We are also using credit on projects where there is comparative advantage," Ali said.
He, however, added that Bangladesh has chosen only those lines of credit from China where it has an advantage.
"We have economic relations with China, but with China we don't have the kind of projects we have with India. There are certain areas where the Chinese have an advantage. For example, the longer time to repay (the credit) but not all Chinese credit lines are used.
"We do not want to get into the debt trap. Bangladesh has not faltered on any of its debt with the World Bank, with China, with India or with any country. Individually, I have not forgotten the 1971," he added.
On the Teesta water-sharing agreement, he said discussions have been going on within India between the states of Sikkim, West Bengal and the Centre.
The Teesta river originates in Sikkim and flows through West Bengal as well as Bangladesh, which wants a higher share of water than it gets now.
Assam: In a first, Bangladesh to take back 33 of its illegal migrants
In a first, Bangladesh has agreed to take back 33 of its national infiltrators by various foreigners tribunals in Assam. These migrants are currently in various detention camps.
Dhaka’s decision will not only add a new dimension to the bonhomie between the two countries, but will also change the tone and tenor of the agitations for and against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and the National Register of Citizens, whose final draft will be out on June 30.
Earlier, Bangladesh, especially under Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party, would deny the presence of its citizens on Indian soil.
Additional DGP (special branch) Pallab Bhattacharya told TOI Bangladesh’s decision was a “goodwill gesture” because there is no repatriation or deportation treaty between the two countries. “Bangladesh’s assistant high commissioner, based in Guwahati, recently toured the detention camps and met the convicted infiltrators,” he said.
Last month, Bangladesh had identified 152 of its nationals lodged in the camps and written to the external affairs ministry proposing repatriation in batches.
Bhattacharya said the Centre, in 2013, had issued instructions to Assam not to push back but deport the illegal foreigners to Bangladesh. He said the addresses of the persons in the detention camps were shared with Bangladesh.
New Delhi:Hindustan Construction Co (HCC) on Wednesday announced that its JV with MAX Group has won a Rs737 crore contract from Russia for a nuclear power plant in Bangladesh.
The contract includes civil works of Turbine Island for Unit 1 of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (NPP). “HCC, in a joint venture with MAX Group, a construction company in Bangladesh has been awarded $110 million (Rs737 crore) contract by Russia’s State Nuclear Company, JSC Atomstroyexport,” HCC said in a statement.
HCC’s share in the JV is 40% ($44 million/Rs295 crore), the statement said. The Rooppur NPP will be built with Russian technology and is equipped with two VVER reactors of 1,200 MW each.
These reactors are similar to the Kudankulam NPP in Tamil Nadu. “HCC has become the first Indian company to participate in the international civil nuclear market. We look forward to further project awards in Rooppur NPP and expanding our infrastructure footprint in Bangladesh,”Arjun Dhawan, director and group CEO, HCC said in a statement.
Two Bangladeshi nationals arrested for illegal stay in Uttar Pradesh
They had arrived here 12 years ago and the woman, Malan Haldar, had got married to a man, Ranjit, who had been living here, the SSP said. The matter came to light during police verification for their passport applications, the police officer said.
Two Bangladeshi arrested for staying illegally in UP |Photo Credit: Thinkstock
Badaun: Two Bangladeshi nationals, living at a village here illegally for the past 12 years, have been arrested, police said on Tuesday. The duo, identified as Vinod and Malan Haldar, living at Gadrauli village in the Kotwali Dataganj police station area, were arrested yesterday, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Ashok Kumar said.
They had arrived here 12 years ago and the woman, Malan Haldar, had got married to a man, Ranjit, who had been living here, the SSP said. The matter came to light during police verification for their passport applications, the police officer said.
The woman's husband said that he was a native of Ashok Nagar area in Kolkata, but he too was under scanner.
India, Bangladesh ties touch a new high: In 10 days, five projects inaugurated
The construction of India-Bangladesh Friendship Product Pipeline Project and a railway project connecting the two countries were on Tuesday flagged off jointly through video conferencing by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina.
At an estimated project cost of Rs 346 crore, expected to be completed in 30 months, the 129 km long India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline will connect Siliguri in India with Parbatipur in Bangladesh and will transport petroleum products from Numaligarh Refinery (NRL) in Assam. While five km of the pipeline is in India the rest of the pipeline will be implemented by Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation.
As reported earlier by FE, laying of a product pipeline from Siliguri to Partapur in Bangladesh is possible due to enhanced product availability after the expansion of the Numaligarh refinery in Assam. This is expected to help in exporting of around 1 mtpa diesel to Bangladesh.
This pipeline is part of Modi government’s efforts to set up such pipelines connecting India with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), which had decided in 2014, to build cross-border pipeline routes for ferrying natural gas and products. The idea behind such a network of pipelines was to build a better hydrocarbon transportation network to meet increasing demand for energy.
The feasibility study was carried out by Bangladesh under the Saarc inter-governmental framework agreement for energy co-operation (IGFA-EC). The member nations of SAARC include: Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.
At today event, the ground-breaking ceremony of the Dhaka-Tongi-Jaydebpur railway project was also held. With a capacity of one million metric tonnes per annum, the gas pipeline project will replace the existing practice of sending diesel by rail covering a distance of 510 Km and will help in the development of the northern Bangladesh.
Inaugurating the Project, Modi who was joined by External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj and Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister, Dharmendra Pradhan, said the ease in relationship between the two countries is not because of technology but growing relationship. “Though it is being done with grant-financing from India, the project will be dedicated to the people and government of Bangladesh once completed,” he added.
Modi described the cooperation between the two countries as an example for the world and the proposed pipeline will further energise, not just Bangladesh’s economy, but also the relationship between the two countries. He expressed confidence that the proposed railway project will contribute to the process of strengthening national and urban transport in Bangladesh.“In the last few years our cooperation has shown that when two neighbouring countries decide, a lot can be achieved—be it decades old boundary dispute or economic projects—we have achieved a lot and I give credit for this to you,” said Modi.
“I am confident that the pipeline Project will be major assets for development of Bangladesh particularly in North Bangladesh. The pipeline will boost ties between India and Bangladesh. Though the pipeline is funded by India but it is matter of pride when the project is completed it would be dedicated to the people of Bangladesh. The railway project will help in developing Bangladesh national railway network, he remarked.
“In 10 days, we have inaugurated five projects. The momentum is because of your leadership. In coming days we will work for bright future of the people of India and Bangladesh,” he said.
From Dhaka, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that development of South Asia is a major challenge. Cooperation between two countries will further boost economic development of South Asia. “In the recent past cooperation in different sectors have given new boost to our relationship.”
Earlier, Minister for External Affairs said that the way the progress of the project is being pursued by the two governments is testimony tour joint commitment, broadening, deepening and intensifying the India-Bangladesh relationship. We are committed to expanding our cooperation to every sector of our activity so that this partnership send before the world as an outstanding example of our true friendship based on equality, mutual trust and respect.
Bangladesh opens Chattogram, Mongla ports for India trade
India and Bangladesh on Thursday signed an agreement to use the Chattogram and Mongla ports in Bangladesh for movement of goods to and from India.
The countries also decided to initiate Kolkata-Dhaka-Guwahati-Jorhat river cruise services.
The agreements were signed during the 19th edition of the standing committee meeting under the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade in New Delhi. The two-day secretary-level talks between India and Bangladesh concluded on Thursday.
Shipping secretary Gopal Krishna said the move would strengthen trade and ties between the two neighbours. “An addendum has also been signed for inclusion of new ports Dhubri in India and Pangaon in Bangladesh,” said Krishna, adding discussions were also held to make the Nakugaon land port in Bangladesh and Dalu in India operational and to connect Gelephu in Bhutan as a tripartite cross-border route.
Bangladesh shipping secretary Abdus Samad expressed satisfaction with the present rounds of talks and said the next round of talks were expected in December. “The last round of talks between India and Bangladesh was held in 2016 and I am happy that after two years India has initiated the next round of talks which will help both countries.”
Both the sides have agreed for development of Jogighopa as a hub/transshipment terminal for movement of cargo to Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Bhutan and on notifying Munshiganj river terminal by Bangladesh customs for routing third-party exim cargo through Kolkata port. The move will help reduce logistic costs substantially.
In another move, the Indian side raised the point of permitting ‘third country’ exim trade in the coastal shipping agreement by allowing transhipment through ports on the east coast of India to which Bangladesh has agreed but will revert only after stakeholder consultations.
Discussions were also held to consider inclusion of Rupnarayan river (National Waterway 86) from Geokhali to Kolaghat in the protocol route and to declare Kolaghat as new port of call. Chilmari was agreed to be a port of call in Bangladesh. The new arrangement will facilitate movement of fly ash, cement and construction material from Jharkhand to Bangladesh through Rupnarayan river. Bangladesh opens Chattogram, Mongla ports for India trade
BJP had 2 seats, now in power, so others do have a chance: Sheikh Hasina to Bangladesh Opposition
“I never think I have to remain in power,” said Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at Gono Bhaban, her official residence, hours after she won a historic third consecutive term following an election marred by allegations of rigging.
When asked about the absence of political opposition in Bangladesh, Hasina, who was extremely relaxed and cracking jokes, took the example of the Congress party in India. “How many seats did they get in the last election? They could not focus on who would be their PM. Such an old and established party, but who will be the leader of the party? It was not clear. So people didn’t vote for them,” she said.
“Do you remember the BJP had just two seats when Rajiv Gandhi won the election? Now, they are in power. So there’s a chance for other parties as well if they work properly,” she said with a smile as her party workers clapped.
Her Awami League-led ruling coalition won 288 seats in Sunday’s election, while the Opposition alliance, which includes the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), got just seven.
At the Gono Bhaban, located on the north corner of Parliament House in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka, Hasina interacted for over an hour with foreign journalists and observers. Flanked by her advisers, H T Imam and Gowher Rizvi, she said, “I can’t accept authoritarian and military regimes. I am running the country very liberally. But, I will not allow terrorism, drugs and corruption, and I will do my best to save our people from these ills.”
Prioritising the fight against terrorism, she has targeted the Jamaat-e-Islami, impressing New Delhi. She has also targeted the BNP on “corruption”.
As the interaction began, she said, “We had a bad experience in the past, but have been trying to establish a system where people can cast their votes freely and fairly so that they can exercise their franchise without any problem.”
Voter intimidation and rigging have been major allegations against the government, which has returned to power with more than 80 per cent of votes. “You can see how enthusiastically people voted… the women and the young generation,” she said. “If we want to develop the country, democracy has to prevail,” she added. She then talked about the assassination of her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and her own return to Bangladesh after six years in exile.
Referring to her father as the “father of the nation”, she said, “We have had bad experiences. Thank god, in the last few years, we have been able to establish democracy. These elections are very important for us.” “So far, so good,” she said, and called the polls “peaceful elections”, although she conceded that some instances took place where some of “our party workers were killed”. At least 20 people are said to have been killed in clashes on voting day.
She said the election provided a “good opportunity to continue with the development of our people”. “Economic development is very important, and people are getting the fruits of development.”
About the Opposition, she asked, “Who are they? It was established by a military dictator. The military dictator first captured power, then entered politics, and then introduced rigging.” She was referring to the BNP’s establishment by General Zia-ur Rahman, husband of Khaleda Zia, the current chairperson of the Opposition party.
And their “allies are war criminals”, Hasina said, referring to the Jamaat-e-Islami. “They don’t have a leader. Because of the corruption case, she is in jail,” she said, referring to Khaleda Zia. Zia’s son, Tarique, was also convicted and is a fugitive. “If a political party’s leadership is fugitive, what can you expect from them?” she said.
About her victory, she said, “You asked why did people vote for me. I can ask you, why not? People enjoy the fruits of development and they are beneficiaries, not myself, not my family members or my government.”
Listing the work she had done, she said, “What do people want? People want to fulfil their basic needs. When they see the government is doing that, they are going to vote for them.”
About the BNP-Jamaat alliance, she said people resented their “terrorist activities”, and added that there was corruption and nepotism during their regime. “There was no progress then. Now, people are enjoying a better life. My thing is no one should be left behind.” “Why did the BNP lose? It’s their fault, they are responsible,” she said.
She said BNP candidates were not campaigning, adding that they would only ask for votes on mobile phones. “They had something on their mind,” she said, going on to indicate that the Opposition were involved in some conspiracy.
“Our priority is that economic activity should continue. We are still a nascent democracy. I have nothing to hide,” she declared with an air of confidence.
During the interaction, she joked that the reason for there being so many talk shows in Bangladeshi news channels was that Bengali people love to talk. She also dismissed reports of rigging as “fabricated”, and said the Election Commission would take action against any irregularities. “We never encourage such activities, we will take action. It’s not acceptable,” she said, and added that problems in 17 out of 40,000 voting stations did not even amount to one per cent.
She also said that she had not taken any action against the Opposition. “In 2001, they killed our people. We have had bad experiences, but we don’t do that. We have not harassed them,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina's massive victory boosts India's Act East and S Asia strategies
Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League’s massive win in Sunday's election that would enable her to become PM for an unprecedented third straight term is a shot in the arm for India and boost to its Neighbourhood First Policy.
Delhi wasted no time in welcoming election results and within hours of declaration of formal results PM Narendra Modi on Monday morning extended a message of congratulations becoming the first foreign leader to do so.
"We welcome the successful completion of the Parliamentary elections in Bangladesh. India warmly congratulates the people of Bangladesh for reaffirming their faith in democracy, development and the vision of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman," MEA noted in a statement.
Modi telephoned Hasina to convey his heartiest congratulations on the decisive results of the election. He expressed confidence that the partnership between India and Bangladesh will continue to flourish under her far-sighted leadership.
The PM also reiterated the priority India attaches to Bangladesh as a neighbour, a close partner for regional development, security and cooperation, and a central pillar in India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy.
Hasina is understood to have thanked Modi for being the first leader to call her to convey congratulations. She also thanked India for their consistent and generous support which has benefited Bangladesh’s development, and appreciated PM’s reiteration of this commitment.
"The conversation was very cordial, fully reflecting the close and traditionally friendly relations between India and Bangladesh," a government statement noted.
A steadfast partner in the fight against counter-terrorism, connectivity initiatives, and sub-regional cooperation, Hasina is poised to play a major role in Delhi's initiatives in Bay of Bengal and Northeast amid China's massive inroads in South Asia.
Stability in Bangladesh like Bhutan is imperative for India amid political uncertainties in certain other parts of neighbourhood that includes Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, according to experts’ familiar with Delhi’s South Asia strategy.
A staunch ally in Dhaka further assists Delhi against Pak Army & ISI's designs to foment cross-border extremism in the region, according to persons familiar with South Asian politics. ISI allegedly tried to influence outcome of the just concluded polls in collaboration with Opposition BNP, Taraque Rehman, London-based exiled son of former PM Khaleda Zia and certain Dhaka-based business houses.
Further Bangladesh that is all poised to emerge as a middle-income country opens up a huge market for Indian investors. Few are aware that the country has already emerged as major source for remittances for Indians after the Gulf region. Bangladesh is the highest recipient of India’s concessional Line of Credit that almost amounts to $ eight billion.
Connectivity between Bangladesh and neighbouring countries including India have received great boost during the last ten years from Hasina’s pro-active stance on enhancing connectivity in South and Southeast Asia.
Bangladesh is playing a leading role in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) which groups together Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan in a forum for multilateral cooperation.
“Bangladesh is uniquely positioned to take advantage of its location in the eastern region of South Asia. It will be a centre point of different initiatives that seek to connect Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal with the ASEAN and other East Asian countries.
With deeper trade, investment and connectivity linkages within the sub-region, Bangladesh can benefit from new markets, new import sources of high quality and better priced products, increasing opportunities for transport and logistics services,” an official told ET here.
Further regional connectivity between Bangladesh and its neighbours is expected in implementation of the planned concept of ‘Blue Economy’ now that Bangladesh is in receipt of new marine territories as a result of the maritime verdict wins through arbitration against India and Myanmar
“The erstwhile Khaleda Zia regime in Bangladesh had strong reservations against granting connectivity and transit to the neighbours on the pretext that it would infringe on the sovereignty of Bangladesh. It was the Sheikh Hasina-led government that realized that granting connectivity and transit was a win-win situation for Bangladesh as, in addition to earning revenue it would allow local entrepreneurs to access the markets in North East India and beyond and enable greater people-to-people contact in a smooth way,” the official quoted above pointed out.
Last but not the least, the Sheikh Hasina -led Awami League (AL) government espouses the slogan ‘Dhormo Jaar Jaar, Utsob Shobar,’ (Religion as per one’s own, but festivals common to all) as a testimony of its secular values and efforts to protect minority rights, a Bangladeshi official told ET from Dhaka over phone.
“Unlike AL Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) comprises disparate elements from the extreme left to extreme right, often in uneasy coexistence with each other. Encompassing commitment was to anti-India policies. The cantonment-born party BNP remains vulnerable to sabotage and blackmail by the rightist lobbies, its Alliance partner Jamaat and other pro-Pak leaders within the party,” the official claimed. Sheikh Hasina's massive victory boosts India's Act East and S Asia strategies