Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is leaving for New Delhi today to begin her four-day official visit to India.
She is set to arrive in New Delhi this afternoon to pay a state visit that will focus on mutual interests and development initiatives that is expected to open up new horizons for the bilateral ties between the countries.
The visit, which has been postponed twice before, comes seven years after Hasina’s last state visit to India in January 2010 and almost two years after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh in June 2015.
“The upcoming visit is expected to further expand the cordial and cooperative relationship between Bangladesh and India and build on the strong ties of friendship and trust between the two leaders,” says a joint statement issued by the governments regarding this visit.
New Delhi has taken massive preparation to welcome the Bangladesh premier. Streets have been decorated with national flags of the two countries, and large portraits of both Hasina and Modi have been installed at different points around the Indian capital.
During this trip, Bangladesh and India may sign around 35 deals and memorandums of understanding (MoUs) on trade and commerce, economy and connectivity.
The visit is also politically important as Hasina is visiting the neighbours at a time when political parties in Bangladesh are gearing up for the next general election scheduled in 2019. This is Hasina’s first visit to India after her party came to power in 2014.
India was the only major ally that backed the Awami League government prior to the 2014 election, which was boycotted by the BNP and its allies.
Bangladesh is also likely to sign a MoU with India on defence related issues.
India has proposed a $500-million line of credit for Bangladesh to purchase military hardware from mainly Indian state-run producers.
Although many development issues will be discussed, the much-talked-about issue of sharing Teesta water is highly likely to remain unresolved.
The fate of Teesta Water Sharing Treaty has been hanging in the balance for years. It was blocked in 2011 due to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s refusal to release more water to Bangladesh, even though both the countries were set to sign the deal.
Currently, Bangladesh and India have some treaties including Land Boundary Agreement, Bilateral Trade Agreement, Bilateral Cooperation Agreement in the field of standardisation, and Agreement on Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati and Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala Bus Service and its Protocol.
There are also some MoUs including prevention of human trafficking, blue economy and maritime cooperation in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, use of Chittagong and Mongla seaports, Indian economic zone, and joint research on oceanography of the Bay of Bengal.
According to the final itinerary of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, she will meet Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in Rashtrapati Bhawan at 4:30pm today.
Tomorrow morning, she will meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House where they will hold delegation-level talks, exchange agreements and issue press statements.
Expansion of trade relations, investment, connectivity, Padma (Ganges) Barrage construction, water sharing, border security, and defence cooperation will be the focus of their discussion at the meeting.
Bilateral trade and business currently accounts for around $5.5 billion in a year, benefiting both countries. Bangladesh exports over $550 million worth of goods to India.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is expected to join a meeting.
Later in the evening, Hasina will meet with Indian Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari.
On Sunday evening, Hasina will see Indian President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhawan. Mamata Banerjee is expected to attend the banquet hosted by the Indian President.
On Monday afternoon, Hasina will attend a talk with Indian business delegations in the morning.
The premier will leave for Dhaka on Monday afternoon.
Modi visited Bangladesh on June 6-7, 2015 and issued a joint declaration with Hasina, launching a new beginning – “Notun Projonmo, Nayi Disha.”