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Focus on cooperation and connectivity as Sheikh Hasina set to visit India

Bangladesh PM to arrive in Delhi on Sept 5

[File] Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina | Twitter/ANI [File] Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina | Twitter/ANI

It is all about closeness. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will arrive in India for a three-day visit next week. On the cards cooperation and connectivity. 

“In the recent years, both sides have sustained a high level of engagement,’’ said Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs at the weekly press briefing. “The forthcoming visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will further strengthen the strong historical and cultural ties and mutual trust and understanding.”

This is Hasina’s first foreign visit post pandemic. Her visit also comes at a time when China, too, has been avidly wooing Bangladesh. China has helped build the Padma Bridge. Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi was on a visit to Dhaka recently. The Hasina government called upon China to use its influence to repatriate the Rohinyas refugees. The Chinese foreign minister told Hasina that Bangladesh was a “strategic development partner”. An assurance that China would support Bangladesh on all issues at every international forum was also reportedly offered. In return, Bangladesh reiterated its support for the One China policy, in light of the tensions with Taiwan. 

With the elections a year away—and facing an anti-incumbency factor—there is a lot at stake. The Padma Multimodal bridge project—an emotive issue in Bangladesh—was designed to be Hasina’s ticket to win hearts for the elections. But she will want closer connectivity projects—including better railway links—to help her boost her image at home. 

One of the fastest growing economies in the world, Bangladesh, however, has reached out to the IMF for a loan under the Resilience and Sustainability Trust. Reports suggest that Bangladesh wanted 2 billion dollars from the IMF, including for budgetary and balance-of-payment support. While officials in Bangladesh have denied that it means that the economy is in bad shape, the Ukraine conflict has ensured a pressure on the budget.

Bangladesh will be keen to have more rail connectivity. It is believed that Bangladesh wants to initiate the India-Bangladesh Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). 

The Awami League government has had very strong links with India. And over the years, Hasina has taken New Delhi's security concerns over growing extremism seriously. However, Hasina is also facing concerns with growing attacks on Hindu minorities in the country. It is a charge that Hasina has chosen to personally address.  

“We want people of all faiths to live with equal rights. You are people of this country, you have equal rights here, you have the same rights as I have,” the Dhaka Tribune newspaper quoted her as saying on Janamasthimi when she interacted with the community. “You would always think that you are the citizens of this country and you will enjoy equal rights,” she said.

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