Jaishankar: Growing Dhaka-Delhi interactions good reflection of trust

Visit aimed at continuing the progress and deepening engagement of ties, says S Jaishankar

Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday said the “regularity, informality and cordiality” of interactions between Dhaka and Delhi had been a very good reflection of the trust and confidence, noting that leaders of the two countries remained in touch.

“My visit today is aimed at continuing the progress and deepening our engagement and it is in keeping with the strength and spirit of our bilateral ties,” he told reporters at the Foreign Service Academy at a media briefing jointly with his Bangladesh counterpart AK Abdul Momen.

Despite the challenges of Covid-19 pandemic, Jaishankar said they had remained regularly in touch and made good progress in bilateral relations with Bangladesh.

“Our connectivity today is back to pre-Covid levels and we are looking at resuming cross border busses and train services shortly after Eid,” said Jaishankar who last visited Bangladesh in March 2021.

Abdul Momen said in working together the two countries resolved some major problems.

He said both sides renewed commitments to resolve the pending issues as they have the spirit to work together.

Jaishankar said he conveyed to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina the personal greetings and good wishes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “We look forward to her visit to India at a time of her convenience”.

At the invitation of Hasina, the Indian PM paid a state visit to Bangladesh in March last year to join the celebrations of the Golden Jubilee of the Independence of Bangladesh, the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 50 years of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Bangladesh.

At the invitation of President Abdul Hamid, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind also paid a state visit to Bangladesh from December 15 to 17 last year to attend the 50th Victory Day celebrations as the guest of honour.

Next JCC Meet in Delhi

Before PM Hasina’s planned India visit, the next round of Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) meeting will be held in New Delhi, most likely next month. The JCC will be co-chaired by Momen and Jaishankar.

“We are looking forward to welcome him (Momen),” said the Indian external affairs minister, adding that this meeting would provide opportunity to lay the ground for the next level of the relationship, which he hoped would be underlined during prime minister’s visit,

Asked about the issues to be discussed in the next JCC, Momen earlier said Bangladesh would raise all the outstanding issues in the meeting.

Asked about Teesta River water sharing and border killing issues, he said Bangladesh always had raised these issues and would reiterate those. 

The sixth meeting of the JCC was held on September 29, 2020. Although Dhaka was scheduled to host the meeting, due to the Covid-19 situation the meeting was held on a virtual platform.

Talking about “strong” people to people connectivity, Jaishankar said their connectivity was back to pre-Covid levels. 

“We are looking at resuming cross border busses and train services shortly after Eid,” he said. 

He said Covid in fact taught them how important it was to have regional supply chains and value chains and hoped to see early commissioning of many projects on the connectivity front. 

The Indian minister said India also had been looking forward to stronger sub regional cooperation and connectivity in the energy sector as they eye “progressive partnership” in this area.

Responding to a question on Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), he said discussion had taken place at officials-level. “These are very detailed discussions.”

Sought for his comment on whether India is playing any role in the withdrawal of US sanctions on Bangladesh’s elite force RAB, Jaishankar said: “I think that is a question you need to ask Dr Momen, not me.”

Earlier, Momen received his Indian counterpart at BAF Base Bangabandhu at around 2:15pm upon his arrival by a special flight of the Indian Air Force.

Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen and Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Vikram Kumar Doraiswami were also present.

After his meeting with the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence Ganabhaban, he held discussions with Dr Momen at the Foreign Service Academy.

Momen also hosted an Iftar-cum-dinner in honor of his Indian counterpart.

He is scheduled to leave for Paro, Bhutan by Indian Air Force special flight at 8:30am on Friday after wrapping up his Bangladesh visit.