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Covid vaccine, rail link — India looks to reset Delhi-Dhaka ties amid growing China presence

Foreign Secretary Harsh V. Shringla finished his two-day Dhaka trip Wednesday. He is likely to visit other neighbouring countries on the lines of the 2015 ‘SAARC Yatra’.

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New Delhi: Foreign Secretary Harsh V. Shringla, who Wednesday finished his two-day trip to Bangladesh that was aimed at resetting ties in the wake of Dhaka cosying up with China, is likely to visit other neighbouring countries as part of India’s major neighbourhood outreach programme.

The ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy was highlighted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech in which he stressed on “connecting our relations with our neighbours”.

On Tuesday, Shringla left for Bangladesh in the backdrop of an announcement that Bangladesh will soon be receiving $1 billion from China for the Teesta river project. Earlier this year, Bangladesh sought Chinese funding to develop nine new projects worth $6.4 billion, which include a sea port, a bridge and hi-tech parks. 

During his Dhaka trip, Shringla held a “fruitful and excellent meeting” with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who vowed to take the “relationship forward”, sources said.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen had recently said that Bangladesh-India relations are “blood ties”. 

Both sides during the foreign secretary’s visit drew a comprehensive roadmap in which India outlined some of the key infrastructure projects, which will now be finished in a time-bound manner, sources said.

Some of the pending projects in Bangladesh funded by India that are expected to now get a major push are the Akhaura-Agartala rail link, dredging of inland waterways and construction of India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline that are aimed at Bangladesh’s development.

An official said that both sides have also agreed to establish a joint consultative commission at the level of the finance ministers “to be convened virtually soon to oversee the relationship, and especially the ongoing projects”.

Meanwhile, sources told ThePrint India is likely to send the foreign secretary to other neighbouring countries as well, somewhat on the lines of the 2015 ‘SAARC Yatra’ that was done by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who was then the foreign secretary.

Also read: Rajapaksa won without taking anti-India stand, shows Modi’s Neighbourhood First is working

Security issues, Rohingya refugees

Both sides have discussed the proposal for air transport bubbles aimed at facilitating business, official and medical travel, sources said.

Bangladesh has urged India to allow the entry of those who want to visit India on medical grounds. Some of them, the sources said, have valid visas issued by the Indian High Commission in Dhaka but cannot travel owing to the shutting down of borders.  

Security-related issues of mutual interest were also discussed, sources added.

Dhaka also once again, sources said, urged India to push the Myanmar government on repatriation of the Rohingya refugees, who are presently residing there.

‘Bangladesh to get priority if India produces Covid vaccine’ 

On Wednesday, after a meeting with his Bangladeshi counterpart Masud Bin Momen, Shringla said Bangladesh will get “priority” in the Covid-19 vaccine that will be produced in India. “For us, Bangladesh is always a priority country,” Shringla told reporters there

“When the vaccine is produced, it goes without saying that our closest neighbours, friends, partners and other countries will be part of that,” he added.

Last month, India gifted 10 diesel locomotives to Dhaka in line with a commitment that PM Modi had made to Sheikh Hasina during her visit to New Delhi in October 2019. 

‘Visit may have reduced some growing discomforts’

Experts, however, said the visit “has some implicit reasons”. 

“There have been some discomforts on both sides in recent time, and probably this sudden visit is an acknowledgement of this situation. Good thing is that both countries emphasise on dialogue for the solutions of bilateral problems. Overall, this visit is positive and it may have reduced some of the growing discomforts,” said Selim Raihan, professor (economics), Dhaka University and Executive Director, South Asian Network on Economic Modeling.

Raihan added: “India is definitely concerned about Chinese presence in its neighbouring countries… India’s strategy to gain the confidence of its neighbouring countries should involve giving high priority to resolve its bilateral issues with each neighbouring country.”

Also read: Modi’s Neighbourhood First push is being pulled down by decades of policy stagnation


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  1. we ,Bangladeshi love both India and China,both of them are our development partner.Hope the tensions between two neighbouring countries will be solved by discussions.Because we are secular and peaceful nation.

  2. we Bangladeshi love both india and china for our development partner but not pakistan,this country will fall down for its military economy instead of developing also has engaged in conspiracy against us.

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