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Everything you need to know about Hasina’s trip to India

  • Published at 02:22 am April 7th, 2017
  • Last updated at 06:52 pm April 7th, 2017
Everything you need to know about Hasina’s trip to India
When was Sheikh Hasina’s last state visit to India? The Bangladesh premier’s last state visit came seven years ago in January 2010 at the invitation of former Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh. This time, she is visiting at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. How many times has she met Narendra Modi? The two leaders have already met four times. During their first meeting on September 27, 2014 at the UN General Assembly in New York, Sheikh Hasina invited her Indian counterpart to visit Bangladesh. Modi made good on this offer when visiting Dhaka on June 6-7, 2015. Hasina and Modi met again on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on September 24, 2015. The last time the pair met was on October 16 last year, when the Bangladesh premier went to Goa to attend the 8th BRICS Summit. Why was Hasina’s visit to India postponed earlier? Hasina’s visit was originally planned for December 2016 but was postponed with several factors distracting PM Modi: his probable visit to China; the sudden death of the Tamil Nadu chief minister; and the ongoing political crisis over demonetisation in India. At that time, Hasina herself concluded that these issues might preoccupy the Indian administration and that consequently the Teesta Water Sharing Treaty - the cornerstone agenda point of her visit - might receive less attention, said a source in the Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Why is this visit significant? It is believed that this visit will take bilateral relations between Bangladesh and India a notch higher, since several sticky issues between the two countries have been resolved in recent years, such as the Land Boundary Agreement and maritime border dispute. It is also significant in terms of politics and the 11th general election which is slated for 2019. India was the only major country that backed the Awami League government prior to the 2014 general election, which was boycotted by major opposition party the BNP and its allies. What are the existing treaties between Bangladesh and India? Bilateral documents which were signed, exchanged, adopted and handed over during Modi’s visit to Bangladesh in 2015 are as follows: Land Boundary Agreement, Bilateral Trade Agreement, Agreement on Coastal Shipping Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade, Bilateral Cooperation Agreement in the Field of Standardisation, and Agreement on Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati and Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala Bus Service and its Protocol. Several memoranda of understanding (MoU) on various issues were also signed, including: Prevention of Human Trafficking, Prevention of Smuggling and Circulation of Fake Currency Notes, Extending a New Line of Credit by India to Bangladesh, Blue Economy and Maritime Cooperation in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, Use of Chittagong and Mongla Seaports, Project under Saarc’s India Endowment for Climate Change, Indian Economic Zone, Cultural Exchange Programme, Education Cooperation, Leasing of International Internet Bandwidth at Akhaura, and Joint Research on Oceanography of the Bay of Bengal. What deals are expected to be signed this time? The 30 deals and MoUs that are expected to be signed during this visit include border haat establishment, information and telecast issues, atomic energy cooperation, science and technology cooperation, ICT, satellite and aeronautical research, geological science research, defence cooperation, new line of credit, and energy and power cooperation. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is also expected to join a meeting of Modi and Hasina during which the Teesta water sharing issue and Ganges Barrage project will be brought up. Sub-regional cooperation is another area that is likely to be discussed at the meeting. Will the Teesta treaty be signed? The signing of the Teesta treaty was not a precondition for this visit, but Bangladesh remains hopeful that it will be resolved. However, comments made by Indian Ambassador in Dhaka, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, and Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali indicate that the Teesta issue will not be resolved this time. The foreign minister on Tuesday said relations between Bangladesh and India were good and that it “did not matter if the Teesta issue remained unresolved for now”. Recently, after a meeting with Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque, Indian Ambassador Shringla said of the Teesta water-sharing agreement: “Everything is in progress. We will have to see what is possible and what is not possible.” Why have Bangladesh and India failed to sign the Teesta treaty so far? Progress on the deal has stalled because of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s refusal to make more water available for Bangladesh. The governments were close to signing the treaty in 2011 during former Indian premier Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka, but it did not happen as the West Bengal chief minister backed out. The Indian media reported at the time that Manmohan was surprised because of Mamata’s confusion-riddled action that has prevented India from signing the treaty. The then Indian prime minister held talks beforehand with both Mamata and then national security adviser, Shivshankar Menon, and both of them assured him that the draft deal was fine, according to the reports. But the deal was ultimately shelved due to Mamata’s last-minute objections. Mamata is reportedly concerned that the flow of water in the Sikkim valley, where the state has a hydroelectricity project, will be adversely affected if the deal goes through. Will the defence deal be signed? Regarding defence cooperation with India, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali hinted that some MoUs - not agreements - would be signed this time. India has proposed to give a $500 million line of credit to Bangladesh for purchasing military hardware from mainly Indian state-run producers under suppliers-credit. The MoUs also include military training cooperation, defence research cooperation and security cooperation. Has Bangladesh had a defence treaty with India before? No, this is the first time that Bangladesh will sign such a treaty with its neighbour. However, Bangladesh has had a cooperation deal with India before. The ‘India-Bangladesh Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace’, widely known as the ‘Indira-Mujib Treaty’, was a 25-year treaty signed on March 19, 1972 to forge closer bilateral relations between India and the newly-established state of Bangladesh. According to Article 8 in the treaty, each of the contracting parties solemnly declared that it would not enter into or participate in any military alliance directed against the other party. Each of the parties also pledged to refrain from any aggression against the other party and to allow the use of its territory for committing any act that may cause military damage to, or continue to threaten the security of, the other party. The Bangladesh and Indian governments declined to renegotiate or renew the treaty when it expired in 1997. As a part of Bangladesh-India defence cooperation, a joint military training exercise named Sampriti 2016 was conducted at Tangail near Dhaka on November 5-8. The first exercise was conducted in 2010 at Jorhat in Assam. Does Bangladesh have any defence deal with any other country? Bangladesh has a defence deal with China. China is not only a major supplier of arms to Bangladesh, but also a destination for its officers to receive training. Bangladesh is one of the biggest buyers of Chinese weapons. Bangladesh has also purchased military hardware from Russia and several European countries. Are Bangladeshis still being killed by the BSF at the border despite an understanding with BGB about using non-lethal weapons to prevent infiltration? Yes. Bangladeshis are still being killed at the border by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF). A total of 591 Bangladeshi citizens have been killed by BSF and Indian citizens in the last 10 years, claimed Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal in parliament. Independent organisations put the figure at over 1,000 people.
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