PM’S INDIA VISIT: MoU on Kushiyara likely, not Teesta deal

Bangladesh will focus on the sharing of common-river waters, enhancement of trade and cooperation in the power and energy sectors in the bilateral meeting between prime minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.

The Bangladesh PM is scheduled to leave Dhaka at 10:00am for New Delhi on a four-day state visit at the invitation of the Indian prime minister.

Both countries have already agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding on the withdrawal of waters from trans-boundary river Kushiyara although the Bangladesh side would raise the long-pending Teesta water-sharing deal.

‘It seems that the prime minister’s visit to India will achieve some specific directions about the outstanding issues between the two countries,’ foreign minister AK Abdul Momen told a press conference on the prime minister’s visit to India.

He said that bolstering the bilateral trade, increase in investments, power and energy cooperation, border security, defence cooperation and containing drug smuggling and human trafficking would get priority in the bilateral talks in the Hyderabad House on Tuesday. 

Momen said that Bangladesh would have an expectation about the Teesta water-sharing deal.

Regional stability will also be emphasised during the highest-level talks between the two countries.  

About energy cooperation, state minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam said that Bangladesh at the moment had no plan to import Russian oil from any third country.

‘If needed, we will import Indian oil, not Russian oil, from India,’ the junior minister emphasised.

About water-sharing deals, Institute of Water and Environment chair M Inamul Haque told New Age on Sunday that the Teesta water-sharing deal was now  more important than singing an MoU on the withdrawal of the Kushiyara waters.

Momen said that Bangladesh and India were likely to sign at least seven agreements and MoUs on water management, railway communication, science and technology and information and broadcasting during the PM’s visit.

‘We hope that the visit will be very successful. It will help achieve our goals as our relationships are in an ideal condition,’ he said.

Prime minister Hasina will lead a high-level delegation, including several ministers, advisers, state ministers, secretaries and senior officials.

Representatives of Bangladesh business bodies will also accompany Hasina. She is also scheduled to attend a business event organised by the Confederation of Indian Industries on September 7.

The prime minister will be formally received by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Hyderabad House while a ceremonial guard of honour will be accorded to her. She will pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat on September 6.

‘A VVIP charter flight of the Biman Bangladesh Airlines carrying the prime minister and her entourage will depart the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka at 10:00am tomorrow,’ PM’s press secretary Ihsanul Karim said on Sunday.

The flight is scheduled to reach the Palam Airport, New Delhi at 11:30am (India time) where the Bangladesh prime minister will be received by State Minister for Railways and Textiles of India Darshana Vikram and Bangladesh high commissioner to India Muhammad Imran, Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha reported.

 Bangladesh is likely to attach high priority to trade cooperation, including securing fuel oils and essential commodities, which is high on the agenda this time amid a volatile global market following the Russia-Ukraine war, according to officials.

India, now importing crude oil at lower prices from Russia, is willing to export diesel to Bangladesh, said officials.

Speaking on the PM’s visit to India, foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen said on August 29 that they would try to go for a long-term deal on fuel supply with India, now in a better situation in the energy sector.

‘We would try to go for a long-term agreement with India if they have a surplus in fuel oil. We are in a tight situation and expect cooperation from India in this regard,’ he said. 

During the visit, Hasina would also seek India’s cooperation in resolving the Rohingya crisis for regional stability beside other issues, including defence and economic cooperation, as Bangladesh has been hosting over 11 lakh forcibly displaced people from Myanmar following a military crackdown in Rakhine state in 2017, officials said.

Bangladesh would also renew its call for the signing of the Teesta water-sharing deal, hanging in the balance for a long time, and of the framework agreements on six of the 54 common rivers for its rightful shares as the lower riparian country because India withdraws waters unilaterally from the trans-boundary rivers.

‘We will obviously raise the [issue of] Teesta water-sharing deal since it has been sealed. We will have an expectation that they [India] would complete their formalities about it,’ Masud Bin Momen said. 

The 38th Indo-Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission meeting ended in New Delhi on August 25 after a gap of 12 years without any outcome on the Teesta water-sharing agreement that had been left pending since 2011 due to the last-minute opposition from West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

Hasina is also scheduled to attend a state lunch to be hosted by the Indian prime minister in her honour.

India’s external affairs minister and some other dignitaries are expected to pay courtesy calls on the Bangladesh prime minister during her stay.

On September 6, Sheikh Hasina is expected to pay separate courtesy calls on Indian president Droupadi Murmu and vice-president Jagdeep Dhankhar.

She is scheduled to meet family members of former Indian president Pranab Mukherjee the same day.

Later on, she is expected to award the Mujib Scholarship, an initiative of the government of Bangladesh, to the descendants of 200 Indian Armed Forces personnel who were martyred and critically injured during Bangladesh’s War of Independence in 1971.

The prime minister is scheduled to return to Dhaka on September 8.

 Hasina last visited India in 2019 before the Covid pandemic broke out.

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