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Giving a push to India's Neighbourhood First policy, new Foreign Secy Shringla to visit Dhaka

To give priority to India's Neighbourhood First policy, newly appointed Foreign Secretary Harsh Bardhan Shringla will undertake his first foreign visit to Bangladesh where he served recently as High Commissioner for three years.

After his Dhaka visit, the Foreign Secretary will visit other neighboring countries as well. Main purpose of his visit this time will be to finalise the details of the programme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is scheduled to undertake an official visit to Dhaka on March 16 at the invitation of his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has invited Mr Modi along with other world leaders to join the opening ceremony of birth centenary celebrations of founder of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibar Rahman which begins on  March 16. Sources confirmed that Mr Modi will deliver keynote address on during his visit underlining the fact that Bangladesh has become truly secular country under the leadership of Bangabandhu and the legacy carried on by his daughter and the present Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.  

Utterances of BJP, India’s ruling party, leaders notwithstanding about Bangladesh and its people, Mr Modi will definitely avoid all controversial comments about Bangladesh which has become a trusted friend of India over the years .

According to the sources, Mr Modi wants to take the bilateral relationship forward which has been recognized as beyond strategic relationship. This time main focus of the bilateral talks will be defence cooperation, trade-related issues and people to people contact. Already both countries are in negotiations on two new rail connections other than present two operating -- Moitri and Bandhan Express between Dhaka –Kolkata and Khulna –Kolkata.

One passenger train route will be Rajshahi-Kolkata via Rohonpur (Bangladesh) –Singabad (Malda of West Bengal) and the other one will be Dhaka-Siliguri via Chilkabari and Haldibari of Coochbihar of West Bengal. The two neigbours have already agreed to increase the number of trips of present Moitri Express and Bandhan Express from four days a week to five days a week.

India and Bangladesh have signed a MoU of defence cooperation during the visit of Prime Minister Hasina in April 2017. Following that India had announced a line of credit of 500 million $ exclusively for purchasing defence equipment from India. For the last two years both the sides were discussing the modalities of utiilisation of funds.  Only recently a branch of EXIM Bank in Dhaka was identified through which the Line of Credit will be disbursed. Now Bangladesh will submit their wish list for the defence equipment. It is Learnt that Bangladesh Navy is interested about purchasing some vessels and equipment.  

India’s main concern is about greater involvement of China in Bangladesh’s defence sector and Bangladesh has procured two suubmarines from China which has created a lot of concern in the South Block. Now visit of PM Modi will definitely create a clear understanding about defence cooperation between two neighbours. Already Bangladesh has agreed to put coastal radar systems along the Bay Of Bengal shore. India and Bangladesh had signed a peace treaty during Sheikh Mujib’s tenure. Indian PM Indira Gandhi had signed that treaty. Though the treaty was valid for 25 years and it was not renewed. It remains to be seen if that treaty will be renewed this time around.

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