No foreign diplomat has been able to meet PM Hasina for the last four months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, says a diplomatic source
Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das is poised to end her tenure in Bangladesh soon amid much discussion about the “growing ties” between the two countries in public domain, following media reports on both sides of the border based on “speculations."
Though Indian media outlets, quoting a Bangladeshi media article, claimed that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina did not give time to the Indian envoy despite repeated requests for a meeting in the last four months, a senior official in Dhaka said no such appointment was sought in the last four months before July 22.
"The [Indian] high commissioner sought an appointment to meet our prime minister [Sheikh Hasina] on July 22. No appointment was sought before that," the official told UNB expressing displeasure over such a "speculative" report.
The official, wishing to remain unnamed, said Bangladesh is “indeed enjoying the best” of relations with India and that will get stronger in the coming days.
High Commissioner Riva Ganguly is scheduled to leave Dhaka for the headquarters at the end of September or the first week of October.
A diplomatic source said no diplomat met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the last four months due to the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
"I can tell you at least five ambassadors left Dhaka completing their tenures in Bangladesh recently. They even didn’t have farewell meetings with the Prime Minister due to coronavirus," the source told UNB.
The envoys are from South Korea, Switzerland, Spain, Norway and Sweden.
The Hindu, an Indian daily, claimed that High Commissioner Riva Ganguly Das tried for four months to get an appointment with the prime minister of Bangladesh but did not get it.
‘Number of developments’
The official said Bangladesh and India saw a number of events on development cooperation fronts in recent months showing the growing relations between Bangladesh and India.
On Monday, in a virtual handing over ceremony, 10 broad gauge (BG) locomotives were virtually flagged off to Bangladesh by Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar and Minister of Railways and Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, among others, joined from Dhaka.
"Over the last few years, India and Bangladesh have scripted a golden chapter in partnership under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi," Dr Momen said while speaking on the occasion.
Dr Momen said Bangladesh-India relationship is "rock solid" and is based on shared values, principles and confidence; touching almost every sphere of our lives, including politics, culture, trade, investment, water, energy, power, transportation, logistics, security and much more.
"I’m sure we’ll be able to further lift our relations to new heights in the coming days," he said.
On the same day, Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar said the partnership between Bangladesh and India would be key to building a prosperous and peaceful South Asia.
"I firmly believe that," he said adding that this partnership will be a befitting tribute to the vision of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in this historic Mujib Borsho.
"If you read the remarks made by the two foreign ministers, you can easily understand the depth of the relationship," another official told UNB, ruling out that there is no deviation from the commitments of both sides.
Dr Jaishankar said India remains a committed development partner of Bangladesh.
Fight against Covid-19
India provided 30,000 surgical masks and 15,000 head-cover to the Bangladesh government helping its efforts in combating the Covid-19 pandemic.
Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das formally handed over the medical supply to Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen in the fourth week of March.
Bangladesh recently thanked India for offering Bangladesh 10 broad gauge diesel locomotives as a mark of enduring friendship.
This is in line with the commitment by New Delhi during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India last October and renewed focus on “neighbourhood first” policy of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Recently, for the first time, 50 containers loaded with FMCG cargoes and fabrics arrived in Bangladesh from India through Benapole-Petrapole rail link.
The first transshipment of goods (iron and pulses) from Kolkata to India’s North-East took place through Bangladesh’s Chittagong port.
The official said Bangladesh believes “connectivity is productivity” and the visionary prime minister has been trying to expand our connectivity in roads, rail, river routes and heart to heart with our neighbours.
With exports from Bangladesh to India having crossed the $1 billion-mark in 2019 – a remarkable growth of 43% from the previous year, India invited the business community of Bangladesh to further enhance their engagement with India.
"We look forward to more such milestones, especially in this historic year and as we commemorate 50 years of the liberation of Bangladesh and the establishment of our diplomatic ties next year," said India’s external affairs Minister.
"Our uniquely concessional lines of credit of close to $10 billion are the largest India has extended to any country. These projects will help in the infrastructure development of Bangladesh, a prerequisite for its economy leapfrog to the next level," he said.
Dr Jaishankar expressed his happiness that the Covid-19 pandemic had not slowed down the pace of bilateral cooperation and conveyed that he looked forward to more such milestones in the ongoing historic Mujib Borsho.
In recent times, India and Bangladesh have stepped up their rail sector cooperation in mitigating the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, as trade via land border faced disruptions.
Rail, as a cost effective and environment friendly solution, has helped transport essential commodities across the border. Both sides saw the highest ever exchange of freight trains in the month of June.
A total of 103 freight trains were utilized for carrying essential commodities and raw materials.
Recently, parcel and container train services have also commenced between India and Bangladesh.
This is expected to significantly enhance the scope of bilateral trade.