New Delhi: Foreign Secretary Harsh V. Shringla will be on a hurricane tour of Bangladesh Tuesday and is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The visit aims to boost bilateral ties between the two countries, sources said.
This will be Shringla’s first visit out of the country since the Covid-19 lockdown began.
During the two-day visit, the foreign secretary “will discuss and take forward cooperation on matters of mutual interest,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
The former high commissioner to Bangladesh is learnt to be the first visitor Hasina will be receiving since March when both countries enforced a lockdown to arrest the spread of the novel coronavirus. He is expected to return Wednesday.
The sources said the meeting is “significant” and is aimed at “resetting” of ties in the wake of reports that Dhaka has been cosying up with China, even as the bilateral relations between India and Bangladesh have come under some strain since last year.
Shringla is also scheduled to meet Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen.
He will be accompanied by outgoing High Commissioner to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das and Joint Secretary Smita Pant, who now looks after India’s relations with Bangladesh and Myanmar, succeeding Vikram Doraiswami who has been named as New Delhi’s new envoy to Dhaka as Das will come back to the Ministry of External Affairs as Secretary (East).
Visit amid announcement of China aid for Teesta project
Shringla’s sudden trip to Bangladesh comes in the backdrop of an announcement that Bangladesh will soon be receiving $1 billion from China for the Teesta river project.
The Teesta river water sharing arrangement has been one of the most controversial issues between New Delhi and Dhaka. The river originates from Sikkim and passes through West Bengal before finally merging with Brahmaputra in Assam and Jamuna in Bangladesh.
Dhaka wants 50 per cent share of the river’s water for the December-March period.
During his visit to Dhaka in 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised his Bangladeshi counterpart that the matter will be resolved soon. There has, however, been little progress so far.
India and Bangladesh had almost finalised the Teesta water-sharing pact in 2011. It got stuck at the eleventh hour as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee did not cooperate.
According to local media reports, Bangladesh is going for this deal with China on the Teesta project because the Modi government failed to finalise it.
“At this moment, there is no progress on signing the Teesta deal,” Mahmudur Rahman, the lone member of the Bangladesh-India Joint Rivers Commission, told BenarNews.
Bilateral ties between Dhaka and New Delhi have become particularly strenuous since India passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) last year. Border restrictions from the Indian side during the pandemic have also put a strain on the relations.
According to diplomatic sources, while Bangladesh has removed all restrictions on its sides of the border areas, through which the movement of people takes place, the Indian side continues to remain shut.
This is the reason why India is now planning to operate air transport bubbles with Bangladesh.