Happy my 1st foreign visit after COVID onset is to friendly neighbour Bangladesh: PM Modi

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New Delhi, Mar 25 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said he will hold 'substantive discussions' with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina during his two-day visit to Bangladesh, as he expressed happiness that his first foreign tour after the onset of COVID-19 pandemic will be to a friendly neighbouring country with which India shares deep ties.

Modi said he will be visiting Bangladesh on March 26-27 at the invitation of Prime Minister Hasina, and looks forward to his participation at the Bangladesh National Day celebrations on Friday.

In his departure statement, he said, 'I am happy that my first foreign visit after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic will be to our friendly neighbouring country, with which India shares deep cultural, linguistic and people-to-people ties.' Noting that Bangladesh's National Day celebrations on Friday will commemorate the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Modi said 'Bangabandhu' was one of the tallest leaders of the last century, whose life and ideals continue to inspire millions.

'I look forward to visiting Bangabandhu's Samadhi in Tungipara to pay my respects to his memory,' the prime minister said.

Modi said he also looks forward to offering prayers to Goddess Kali at the ancient Jashoreshwari Kali Temple, one of the 51 Shaktipeeths in the Puranic tradition.

The prime minister said he is looking forward to his interaction with representatives of the Matua community at Orakandi, from where Sri Sri Harichand Thakur disseminated his pious message, Modi said.

'I will be having substantive discussions with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, following our very productive virtual meeting in December last year. I also look forward to my meeting with President Abdul Hamid, and to interactions with other Bangladeshi dignitaries,' Modi said.

'My visit will not only be an occasion to convey appreciation for Bangladesh's remarkable economic and developmental strides under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visionary leadership, but also to commit India's abiding support for these achievements,' he said.

Modi said during his visit he will also express India's support and solidarity for Bangladesh's fight against COVID-19.

'As I leave for Bangladesh tomorrow, I look forward to remembering the life and ideals of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and celebrate 50 years of Bangladesh's War of Liberation, as well as our diplomatic ties,' Modi tweeted.

'Our partnership with Bangladesh is an important pillar of our Neighbourhood First policy, and we are committed to further deepen and diversify it. We will continue to support Bangladesh's remarkable development journey, under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's dynamic leadership,' he said.

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, while briefing reporters on the PM's visit to Bangladesh, had said on Wednesday that a range of pacts will be signed and new announcements for bolstering cooperation in several areas will be made during the two-day visit.

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. The two countries are also celebrating 50 years of the establishment of diplomatic ties.

The two prime ministers held a virtual summit on December 17 during which Modi said Bangladesh is a key pillar of New Delhi's 'Neighbourhood First' policy, while Hasina described India as a 'true friend' and asserted that both countries could play a significant role in the global and regional value chains by further integrating their economies as well as boosting connectivity.

During that summit, the two countries had inked seven agreements to further broadbase cooperation in a plethora of sectors, and restored a cross-border rail link snapped by the 1965 war with Pakistan. PTI ASK AAR AAR