By Anisur Rahman
(Eds: Updating with more inputs and pix)
Dhaka, Mar 27 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday that he had a "productive meeting" with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina during which they reviewed the full range of their strategic bilateral ties and discussed ways to further deepen the economic and cultural linkages.
Modi, who visited Bangladesh on his first trip to a foreign country since the COVID-19 outbreak, held extensive talks with Hasina. Both Prime Ministers held a tete-a-tete which was followed by delegation-level talks.
"Both the talks were marked by great warmth and cordiality. The two leaders expressed satisfaction at the excellent state of bilateral relations, based on deep historical and fraternal ties, which reflect an all-encompassing bilateral partnership based on equality, trust and understanding that transcends even a strategic partnership," according to a Joint Statement issued after the meeting.
"Had a productive meeting with PM Sheikh Hasina. We reviewed the full range of India-Bangladesh relations and discussed ways to deepen economic and cultural linkages in the times to come,” Modi tweeted.
The two sides signed five MoUs covering areas such as connectivity, commerce, information technology and sports.
"India and Bangladesh signed MoUs in key sectors such as disaster management, sports and youth affairs, trade, technology and more. These will add strength to our development partnership and benefit the people of our nations, especially the youth," Modi said.
"The visit symbolised the partnership of half-a-century between India and Bangladesh that has strengthened, matured and evolved as a model for bilateral relations for the entire region," according to the Joint Statement.
Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that the two leaders discussed the progress achieved in areas of health, trade, connectivity, energy, developmental cooperation and others.
"Recognising that terrorism remains a threat to global peace and security, both sides reiterated their strong commitment to eliminating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations," the Joint Statement said.
Modi expressed India’s appreciation for the cooperation extended by Bangladesh in security related matters.
He also reiterated India's "sincere and continued efforts" to conclude the Teesta water-sharing agreement in consultation with relevant stakeholders.
"The two leaders directed their respective Ministries of Water Resources to work towards an early conclusion of the Framework of Interim Agreement on sharing of waters of six common rivers, namely, Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar," the joint statement said.
The Indian side also requested for early finalisation of a draft for sharing of water of Feni River pending with the Bangladeshi side, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told reporters.
Both leaders emphasised the importance of effective border management for ensuring a tranquil, stable and crime free border, the statement said.
Modi handed over a representational key of 109 ambulances to his counterpart Hasina. He also handed over a representational box as a symbol of India's gift of 1.2 million COVID vaccine doses to Bangladesh.
The two leaders also jointly inaugurated several projects virtually, including opening three new border haats on India-Bangladesh borders and inaugurating a new passenger train 'Mitali Express' connecting Dhaka and New Jalpaiguri on the Indian side.
This is the third passenger train after Maitree Express (Dhaka-Kolkata) and Bandhan Express (Khulna-Kolkata) running between the two countries.
The other projects included: foundation stone laying of a monument at Bangladesh's Ashuganj in memory of 1971 martyred Indian soldiers; extended development work at Rabindra Bhawan in Kuthibari and ground breaking for Infrastructure Development for Power Evacuation Facilities of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.
The MoUs signed were on Disaster Management, Resilience and Mitigation; cooperation between Bangladesh National Cadet Corps and National Cadet Corps and establishment of a Framework of Cooperation in the Area of Trade Remedial Measures.
Modi and Hasina also released India-Bangladesh Friendship stamps to commemorate the 50th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations.
Modi's visit took place at a time Bangladesh is commemorating Mujib Borsho, the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 50 years of the country's War of Liberation.
On Friday, Modi attended the celebrations of the golden jubilee of the country's independence and the birth centenary of ‘Bangabandhu’ in Dhaka.
Modi offered prayers at the Jeshoreshwari Kali temple in Ishwaripur village on Saturday and announced that India would construct a community hall-cum cyclone shelter attached to the temple.
He visited the mausoleum of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and paid floral tributes to him.
Modi also offered prayers at a Matua temple in Orakandi, the birthplace of Hindu mystic figure and Matua community's spiritual guru Harichand Thakur.
Speaking to the Matua community members, he said both India and Bangladesh want stability, love and peace instead of instability, terror and unrest in the world.
Prime Minister Modi called on Bangladesh President Md. Abdul Hamid.
Modi also extended an invitation to Hasina to visit India in 2022.
Modi thanked the people of Bangladesh for their affection during his visit. "I am sure this visit will lead to further strengthening of bilateral ties between our nations," the prime minister tweeted. PTI AR/ZH AKJ AKJ