Smart Economy


Digital, energy connectivity new focus as Hasina-Modi begin fresh journey

 Published: 11:29, 23 June 2024

Digital, energy connectivity new focus as Hasina-Modi begin fresh journey

Bangladesh and India have embarked on a new journey towards development and friendship with a shared vision for peace, prosperity and development of the two neighbours and the entire region, driven by connectivity, commerce and collaboration.

Digital and energy connectivity have been set as the new focus in this journey as both the leaders – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Prime Minister Narendra Modi - have in the last 10 years restored the physical connectivity that existed before 1965.

In her unprecedented second visit to Delhi in the same month, Sheikh Hasina has agreed with her counterpart Narendra Modi “to collaborate with each other for the betterment of our people and countries”.

They took note of the need “to take the relationship to a deeper and higher quality relationship based on mutual trust and benefit in the coming days.”

Ten MoUs, including the renewal of three, were signed after the bilateral talks on Saturday when Narendra Modi announced India’s intention to work with Bangladesh on contentious issues such as Teesta River management.

“India has a new government; we have a new government too. Our new journey on the path of development and friendship has begun – that's what I want to say,” PM Sheikh Hasina said.

“India is a big country, a big economy and getting their support is very important for us. We have been able to make a lot of progress because of this friendly relationship,” she said.

“I think there are wars going on all over the world. But in this sub-continent of ours, we have been able to develop a perfect relationship and this is how the friendship between our two countries has developed,” she added.

“Today we have prepared a futuristic vision for cooperation in new areas. The youth of both countries will benefit from the agreement reached on cooperation in a lot of areas, such as Green Partnership, Digital Partnership, Blue Economy, Space,” PM Modi said.

“The India-Bangladesh Maitri Satellite will give new heights to our partnership. We have kept our focus- Connectivity, Commerce and Collaboration. In the last ten years, we have restored the connectivity that existed before 1965. Now we will focus more on digital and energy connectivity,” he asserted.

“This will boost the economies of both countries. To take our economic relations to new heights, both sides have agreed to start negotiations on CEPA. India will support the construction of an Inland Container Depot in Sirajganj, Bangladesh.”

The two-day state visit by the Bangladesh leader generated much hype as it was the first incoming visit to India by any head of government after Modi came to power for the third term. This was also the first bilateral visit for PM Hasina after she came to power in January for a fourth consecutive term. She attended the swearing-in ceremony of Modi on June 9 with other heads of governments.

Both leaders recognized the gesture as Modi said: “This meeting is special as PM Sheikh Hasina is our first state guest in our third tenure”.

Hasina reciprocated: "I am now visiting New Delhi for an unprecedented second time in the same month – June 2024.”

After the bilateral talks, both leaders announced their shared vision, which is the first of its kind.

They took note of the need to take the relationship to a deeper level and higher quality based on mutual trust and benefit in the coming days.

“We are confident that this Shared Vision for Future will provide further impetus to strengthening our historic ties and building a future-ready partnership by further developing the current ‘Sonaali Adhyaay’ in our bilateral relations.”

Both leaders reaffirmed their mutual desire to guide India-Bangladesh ties to a new era of future-oriented partnership, for which they recognize each other as indispensable partners in realizing 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 its closest and friendly neighbour. Bangladesh considers India an important partner in the pursuit of its Neighborhood Foreign Policy for ensuring shared peace and prosperity.

Together, they agreed to pursue a “transformative partnership” that advances the shared interests in promoting multi-faceted connectivity for both the countries as well as the entire region by transforming the 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 our sub-regional connectivity initiatives, India will extend transit facilities for movement of Bangladesh goods to Nepal and Bhutan through railway network.

“We are committed to early operationalization of the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement to promote sub-regional connectivity. In this context, we welcome 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 operationalized) at the India-Bhutan border,” they said in the “shared vision” document.

They also agreed “to continue to expand our power and energy collaboration and together develop intra-regional electricity trade, including competitively-priced power generated from clean energy projects in India, Nepal and Bhutan, through the Indian electricity grid.

“To this end, we 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 our grid connectivity.”

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, we are 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 our 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, according to the document.

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

Recognizing the importance of water resource management in our bilateral relationship, the two countries will continue to engage in prioritizing the exchange of data and formulating the framework for interim water sharing based on the recommendations of the Joint Rivers Commission.

The two prime ministers welcomed the formation of a Joint Technical Committee to initiate discussions for the renewal of the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty of 1996.

“As part of our development cooperation, we will also undertake conservation and management of Teesta River inside Bangladesh with Indian assistance within a mutually agreed time frame.”

Appreciating the significant role of the two countries in ensuring peace, stability and harmony in the region, they agreed to strengthen defence cooperation with a “long-term perspective”.

They decided to explore defence industrial cooperation for modernization of the Armed Forces of Bangladesh, to strengthen their capability for defence.

“We will continue to work closely with Bangladesh for our multifaceted military engagements of exercises, training and capability development.”

“We will further bolster India-Bangladesh development cooperation by concluding a new Framework Agreement for Development Partnership, which will expand the reach of our projects and programmes in line with the priorities of the people and the Government of Bangladesh and our long-term vision of closer connectivity.”

To facilitate easier cross-border travel and as a supportive gesture to the friendly people of Bangladesh, India will extend the e-Medical Visa facility to people from Bangladesh travelling to India for medical treatment.

They have 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, according to the shared document.

India welcomed Bangladesh’s decision to join the Indo Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), and cooperate to mitigate disaster risks, build disaster resilient infrastructure, and contribute to the sustenance of our shared maritime region.

“We will work together on global platforms to promote our common interests, especially the interests of Global South,” they agreed.

Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that the state visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina “reflects the depth of the Bharat-Bangladesh Maitri”.

“That PM Hasina is the first state guest in our new term shows the importance we attach to the India-Bangladesh relationship,” he said.

“Being truly good neighbours, our ties are consolidating traditional areas and covering new ground. The agreements signed today show the breadth of our bonds. From seas to space, digital, green and health, military, rail and disaster, our two countries are collaborating across all avenues of human endeavour. Confident that under PM Narendra Modi and PM Sheikh Hasina’s leadership, India-Bangladesh friendship will keep growing from strength to strength,” Jaishankar said.

Source: Dhaka Tribune.