Many of the deaths take place inside India and every death is regrettable, says the Indian external affairs minister on border killings
Various aspects of the bilateral relationship between Dhaka and New Delhi, including contentious border killings, Teesta water sharing agreement and the upcoming visit of the Indian prime minister, were discussed on Thursday in the talk between Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen and his Indian counterpart External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar.
Dr Jaishankar arrived earlier in the morning by a special flight of the Indian Air Force on a daylong trip. Foreign Minister Dr Momen received his counterpart at the airport. He left Dhaka for India at around 9:40 pm.
Emerging from the meeting at the state guest house Padma, both the ministers, while speaking to reporters, described the ties as very good. Dr Momen termed the relations rock solid while Dr Jaishankar said the relationship has transcended strategic partnership.
“We discussed a wide range of ongoing bilateral issues as well as bilateral interests that we can take forward in the days ahead. We focused on possible ways to materialize our commitments and how to prioritize and accommodate each other’s priorities in a mutually beneficial manner,” said Dr Momen, calling the meeting fruitful.
“Covid-19 cooperation, connectivity, trade, water, security, border and lines of credit are some of the areas we discussed,” he said.
The foreign minister also said: “Of course, the preparation for the visit of Hon’ble Prime Minister Modi to Bangladesh at the end of this month has been a key element of our discussions. We are very pleased that Prime Minister Modi will join us for the Mujib Borsho celebrations as well as the golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence, and 50 years of Bangladesh-India diplomatic relations.”
On the visit of Narendra Modi scheduled for March 26-27, the Indian external affairs minister said: “As all of you know, we are working to prepare for the planned visit of our prime minister. It will surely be a very memorable visit: if I recall right it would be his first visit outside India since the coronavirus pandemic and his second as prime minister to Bangladesh.”
“We know that this is a very special year for you, when both countries mark the Mujib Borsho, 50 years of Bangladesh’s liberation and 50 years of our bilateral relationship,” he said.
About the Dhaka-Delhi relationship, Dr Jaishankar said: “Our relations actually transcend even our strategic partnership, and I believe that our bonding is central to the realization of a dream of a peaceful, prosperous and progressive South Asia.”
“And that is why we are working so hard to expand our relationship in all dimensions, ranging from security, trade, transport and connectivity, culture, people-to-people ties, energy, joint development of our shared resources and defence,” he said.
“Our comfort levels are now so high that we have shown that there is no issue that we cannot discuss and resolve through amicable dialogue,” he said.
Replying to a question on the killings of Bangladeshis by the Indian Border Security Force along the border, the Indian external affairs minister said: “We have talked about it. Many of the deaths take place inside India. Every death is regrettable.”
The deaths occurred due to the crimes along the border, he said, expressing optimism that it could be stopped by the joint efforts of both the countries.
The Indian dignitary was asked about the Teesta water sharing agreement, which was supposed to be signed nearly a decade ago, but did not happen due to the last-minute objection of the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
“You all know the position of the government of India. This has not changed,” Dr Jaishankar said to a question regarding the Teesta deal without further elaboration.
However, he said water resources secretaries of both the countries would meet soon and would discuss the issue.
Foreign Minister Dr Momen mentioned that Covid-19 cooperation was discussed during the meeting.
“We thankfully acknowledge the collaborative initiative of the two countries in implementing the vaccination program against the ongoing pandemic,” he said, adding that Bangladesh had purchased the Covid-19 vaccine from Serum Institute of India and the government was implementing the nationwide vaccination program free of cost.
On this issue, Dr Jayshankar said: “Even the pandemic has actually provided an opportunity to reaffirm our friendship. Bangladesh is the largest recipient of made in India vaccines. Also among the friendship is our largest gift of vaccines of 2 million, which is really appropriate that it is to Bangladesh.”
Future of the relationship
The Indian external affairs minister said that connectivity and people-to-people contacts would shape the future relationship between the two neighbours.
“Connectivity is productivity,” he said quoting from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Dr Jaishankar also laid emphasis on a people-led relationship in future.