India-Bangladesh ink 22 pacts; PM Modi assures early solution on Teesta

After holding comprehensive talks with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina, Modi announced a new concessional Line of Credit of USD 4.5 billion for the neighbouring country and an additional assistance of USD 500 million to help its military procurement.

India and Bangladesh today signed 22 pacts in key sectors including defence and civil nuclear but the long-pending Teesta waters sharing agreement remained elusive though Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed his governments commitment for an "early solution".

After holding comprehensive talks with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina, Modi announced a new concessional Line of Credit of USD 4.5 billion for the neighbouring country and an additional assistance of USD 500 million to help its military procurement.

"We in India rejoice in our ties with Bangladesh. Ties that have been forged in blood and generations of kinship. Ties that seek a better and secure future for our people," Modi said at a joint media event with Hasina.

The two countries also agreed to confront challenges of terrorism with deeper security and defence cooperation with Modi terming spread of radicalism as a "grave threat", not only to the two countries but to the entire region.

On her part, Hasina, on a visit here after seven years, said her country will continue its zero-tolerance policy towards terror and promised to take all steps to ensure peace and security along Indo-Bangla border.

"We agreed that the agenda of our cooperation has to remain focused on purposeful action. We specifically looked at charting new avenues and tapping fresh opportunities in advancing our relationship."

Though the two sides decided to take their ties to a newer level, they could not finalise the long-pending Teesta water- sharing agreement, primarily due to opposition to it by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who was present during launch of new train and bus services between the two countries.

TEESTA WATER ISSUE

On the Teesta water issue, Modi said the pact is important for Indo-Bangla relationship and expressed hope that the West Bengal chief minister will eventually support it.

"I am very happy that the chief minister of West Bengal is my honoured guest today. I know that her feelings for Bangladesh are as warm as my own. I assure you and the people of Bangladesh of our commitment and continuing efforts," he said, adding he "firmly" believes that an early solution to the issue "can and will" be found.

The prime minister also complimented Hasina for her governments zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism and said "it is an inspiration for all of us."

A new bus and train service was also launched between Kolkata and Khulna in Bangladesh.

"India has always stood for the prosperity of Bangladesh and its people. We are a long-standing and trusted development partner of Bangladesh. India and Bangladesh are also determined that the fruits of our cooperation must benefit our people," said Modi.

Talking about regional connectivity, he said India was looking forward to early implementation of the BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal) Motor Vehicles Agreement which will "usher in a new era of sub-regional integration." The BBIN initiative was taken after Pakistan stalled a regional transport initiative of SAARC.

Under the Defence LoC pact, India will supply military hardware to Bangladesh.

The other key MoUs inked were on passenger and cruise services on the coastal and protocol route, and cooperation on cyber security and in the peaceful uses of outer space.

As a mark of Indias respect to father of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Hasinas father, a prominent road in Delhi has been named after him.

Modi and Hasina also released a Hindi translation of Bangbandhus Unfinished Memoirs.

The Prime Minister said with fresh assistance of USD 4.5 billion, Indias resource allocation for Bangladesh has recorded more than USD 8 billion over the past six years.

ENERGY SECURITY AN IMPORTANT DIMENSION

Identifying major areas of cooperation, he said energy security is an important dimension of the two-way development partnership.

"Today, we added an additional 60 Mega Watt of power to the 600 Mega Watt of power already flowing from India to Bangladesh. The supply of another 500 Mega Watt has already been committed from the existing inter-connection.

"We have also agreed to finance the diesel oil pipeline from Numaligarh to Parbatipur. Our companies are entering into a long-term agreement for the supply of high speed diesel to Bangladesh. We have also agreed on a time table for regular supply till the pipeline is constructed," he said.

Later, briefing reporters, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said the two leaders assessed the status of bilateral ties at this juncture as he described the current visit as "going exceptionally good".

He also said India and Bangladesh have already identified 17 projects including port development and other key infrastructure upgrade for the usage of USD 4.5 billion line of credit, which was among the largest done for any country bilaterally.

12 BUSINESS AGREEMENTS EXPECTED TO BE SIGNED

Around 12 business agreements are also likely to be signed on Monday during a business event, he said.

Indian envoy to Dhaka Harsh Shringla also pitched for more bilateral investments to address Bangladeshs concerns over trade imbalance.

He talked about liberalised visa regime for Bangladesh nationals including those coming for medical purposes.

On non-economic issues, Jaishankar said the two leaders discussed threat of terrorism in the region and there was convergence of views on the issue including the source.

Asked if our relations with Bangladesh, erstwhile East Pakistan, can teach any lessons to current Pakistan, the foreign secretary said Indo-Bangla counter-terrorism is working so fine and the lessons are out there for others to learn.