Connectivity, commerce to figure prominently during Hasina-Modi summit

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Dhaka, Mar 24 (PTI) Connectivity and commerce along with water management, security and border management will figure prominently during the summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina here this week, a media report said on Wednesday.

In his first trip to a foreign country since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Modi will visit Bangladesh from March 26 to 27 to attend the celebrations of the golden jubilee of the country's independence and the birth centenary of its founder ‘Bangabandhu’ Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

During his trip, Prime Minister Modi will hold talks with Prime Minister Hasina and the two sides are expected to sign a number of MoUs in different fields.

'Bangladesh wants to put emphasis on connectivity in its future relations with India hoping that that increased connectivity will boost business and commerce. In this context, Bangladesh will put emphasis on connectivity and commerce in the upcoming summit' between the two prime ministers, Prothom Alo newspaper reported.

Citing diplomatic sources, the Bangla-language newspaper said that issues like water management, security and border management along with connectivity and commerce will get priority in the Dhaka summit later this week.

Alongside a few other topics, the issue of connectivity will be given importance in the discussion, the paper quoted Foreign Secretary Masud bin Momen as saying.

'About the priorities, a concerned official said Bangladesh will give importance to connectivity. At the same time, it will propose to include Nepal and Bhutan in the connectivity as well so that the people and goods transportation from those countries can also enjoy the facility,' it added.

The sharing of water resources will also get importance in the discussion as usual, another official said.

Citing a government official, the paper said India has been putting emphasis on connectivity centring the Bay of Bengal.

During his visit to Dhaka earlier this month, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that India was keen to focus on the development of connectivity with Bangladesh and beyond for next 20 years to change the region's geo-economic scenario.

'Fifty years (of Indian-Bangladesh ties) are over…Let’s think for the next 20 years. I would say most of all is to look at connectivity…I would pick connectivity as a big goal (for our relationship),' he had said.

Jaishankar also talked about involving a third country, preferably Japan, to be a major stakeholder in the bilateral engagement in terms of connectivity as both Dhaka and New Delhi were having 'very good' relations with Tokyo.

'Japan is involved (as well) in connectivity projects in the Bay of Bengal (region),' Jaishankar had said. 'I can tell you the whole geo-economics of the region will change, the Bay of Bengal will look very different.' Early this month, Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Hasina inaugurated a bridge built over the Feni river that flows between Indian boundary in Tripura and Bangladesh.

After inaugurating the bridge, Prime Minister Modi said better connectivity is not only strengthening the friendship between the two countries but also proving to be a strong link for economic and trade ties.

In her remarks at an online event, Hasina said the 'Maitri Setu' built over the Feni river will be a 'trading lifeline' for India's northeastern states and noted that political boundaries in the region should not become physical barriers for trade.

The two prime ministers held a virtual summit on December 17 last year, during which Modi said Bangladesh is a key pillar of New Delhi's 'Neighbourhood First' policy.

During his this week's visit, Modi will also visit two Hindu temples in southwestern Shatkhira and Gopalganj districts, largely inhabited by the Hindu Matua community, a large number of them hailing from West Bengal. PTI ZH AKJ ZH ZH