India, Bangladesh to deliberate on COVID-19 cooperation, border management, security Friday

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New Delhi, Jan 28 (PTI) India and Bangladesh will hold extensive deliberations on Friday at the next round of Foreign Office Consultations on key issues such as cooperation in combating COVID-19, border management and security as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's upcoming visit to the neighbouring country.

The Indian side will be led by Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and the Bangladeshi side by his counterpart Masud Bin Momen.

The Foreign Office Consultations will review the entire gamut of bilateral relations, including cooperation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, border management and security, trade and investment, connectivity, energy, water resources, development partnership and regional and multilateral issues, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.

'Both sides will also discuss joint activities to be held throughout the year as the two countries celebrate 50 years of their diplomatic ties,' he said.

Preparations for the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Modi to Bangladesh will also be discussed, Srivastava said.

Prime Minister Modi will visit Bangladesh in March this year to join the celebrations to mark 50 years of Bangladesh's Independence and India-Bangladesh diplomatic relations.

Bangladesh is one of the key pillars of India's 'Neighbourhood First' policy and both countries have comprehensive cooperation through more than 60 bilateral mechanisms. the MEA said in a statement.

During his visit, the Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary will also call on the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

Meanwhile, the 2nd India-Bangladesh Consular Dialogue was held on Thursday with Sanjay Bhattacharyya, Secretary (CPV & OIA) heading the Indian delegation, while Ambassador Mashfee Binte Shams, Secretary (East), Bangladesh foreign ministry, leading the Bangladeshi side.

Consular dialogue mechanism between the two countries was instituted in 2017 to discuss issues related to consular, visa, and mutual legal assistance matters.

The two sides had wide-ranging discussions on mechanisms to strengthen coordination and cooperation on Consular issues, the MEA said.

The discussions included finalisation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for consular access, verification of nationality and release of detainees, particularly early release of detained fishermen, it said.

'It was agreed that implementation of provisions under the Revised Travel Arrangements (2018) relating to tourist, student and business visas and further liberalization of visa formalities and entry and exit norms would further enhance ease of travel,' the MEA said.

Both sides welcomed the close cooperation between agencies to deal with terrorism and cross-boundary crimes and on legal assistance, it said.

The two sides reiterated their commitment to continue to work towards citizen-centric consular mechanisms.

Noting the special bond between the two countries and the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties, they agreed to further strengthen the bilateral relations and promote greater people-to-people exchanges.

The next Consular Dialogue will be scheduled in Dhaka, the MEA said. PTI ASK SMN SMN