By Anisur Rahman
(Eds: Updating with joint statement)
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 bilateral ties and discussed ways to deepen the economic and cultural linkages in the times to come.
Modi, who is visiting Bangladesh on his first trip to a foreign country since the COVID-19 outbreak, held one-on-one talks with Hasina which was followed by delegation-level 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.
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," said a joint statement issued after their talks.
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.
In a humanitarian gesture, Prime Minister Modi handed over a representational key of 109 life-saving 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.
Hasina presented a gold and a silver coin released on the occasion of the birth centenary of her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to Modi. She also handed over a silver coin released on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh's Independence.
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 Kuthibari in Shilaidaha of Bangladesh's Kushtia 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 (BNCC) and National Cadet Corps (NCC) and establishment of a Framework of Cooperation in the Area of Trade Remedial Measures.
The supply of ICT equipment, courseware and reference books and training for Bangladesh-Bharot Digital Service & Employment and Training (BDSET) Center, and Establishment of Sports facilities at Rajshahi College field and surrounding areas were other MoUs.
The two prime ministers also released India-Bangladesh Friendship stamps to commemorate the 50th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations.
Modi's visit is taking 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, the birth centenary of ‘Bangabandhu’ in Dhaka
Earlier in the morning, Modi offered prayers at the centuries-old Jeshoreshwari Kali temple in Ishwaripur village in southwestern Bangladesh and announced that India would construct a community hall-cum cyclone shelter attached to the temple, which is one of the 51 Shaktipeeths in the Puranic tradition.
He visited the mausoleum of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and paid floral tributes to him, becoming the first-ever foreign Head of State or Head of Government to pay homage at the grave of 'Bangabandhu' at Tungipara in southwestern Bangladesh.
Modi also offered prayers at a Matua temple in Bangladesh's Orakandi, the birthplace of Hindu mystic figure and Matua community's spiritual guru Harichand Thakur.
Speaking to the Matua community members after offering prayers, Modi said both India and Bangladesh want stability, love and peace instead of instability, terror and unrest in the world.
Modi also extended an invitation to Hasina to visit India in 2022. PTI AR/ZH AKJ ZH