Dhaka: India and Bangladesh today discussed the common challenge of terrorism and resolved to fight the scourge together even as New Delhi reaffirmed its status as are liable development partner of Dhaka.
“We are both determined to protect our societies from the threat of ideologies of hate, violence and terror by adopting a zero tolerance policy and a comprehensive approach infighting violent extremism and terrorism at all levels,”External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said after talks with the Bangladeshi side as part of the fourth Joint Consultative Commission (JCC).
“We discussed the common challenges that we are faced with today. One such challenge is that of terrorism, extremism and radicalisation and we will continue to fight this scourge together and along with other like-minded countries,” she said. Swaraj, who arrived here on a two-day visit, said “India has been a longstanding and reliable development partner of Bangladesh”.
“Totally, three lines of credit amounting to USD 8 billion have been extended by India to Bangladesh so far. This is by far the largest development assistance that India has extended to any country worldwide,” she said. India has also been extending grant assistance for small socio-economic projects in Bangladesh.
In the past three years alone, 24 such grant projects have been completed which include construction of students’ hostels, tube-wells,cultural centres, and orphanages among others. Presently 58 projects, including city development projects in Rajshahi,Khulna and Sylhet, are under implementation, she said.
“India is now supplying 660 MW of much needed power to the Bangladesh people and this figure will double, if not triple, in the foreseeable future. We will work together as founding members of the International Solar Alliance, for which Bangladesh has just confirmed its accession. This alliance is expected to make solar energy affordable,” Swaraj said.
In order to facilitate people-to-people contacts, she said the Indian Mission and Posts in Bangladesh issued 9.76 lakh visas in 2016 and these are expected to grow to about 14 lakh visas in 2017. Swaraj said India will also offer five-year multiple entry visas for Bangladeshi freedom fighters and is planning a scheme for their medical treatment in India.
The Bangladesh foreign minister said during the talks Dhaka raised the issue of the long pending Teesta water sharing deal and “recalled this statement by Prime MinisterNarendra Modi in April, 2017 that the Teesta Agreement will be signed during the current tenure of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Prime Minister Modi”. “Water resource must act as a uniting force between our two countries,” Ali said.
He said Dhaka also requested India to facilitate the removal of anti-dumping duty on jute and jute products. The meeting discussed issues to facilitate trade and investment further including progress in the implementation ofIndian SEZs in Bangladesh.
Swaraj on her part said “We are aware of the outstanding issues and we assure you that we are working to resolve them”. In a significant development for growing bilateral energy cooperation, India agreed to supply 340 MW of additional power to Bangladesh while it currently exports 660 MW, Ali said.
He said Dhaka proposed some new bilateral and regional connectivity initiatives through rail, road, water and air also involving Bhutan and Sri Lanka while the Indian side”agreed to positively consider these proposals”. The JCC also decided to soon prepare a trilateral MoU for hydropower cooperation to help Bangladesh import hydro energy from Bhutan while “India also agreed to facilitate import of electricity to Bangladesh from hydro projects in Nepal”.
This is Swaraj’s second visit to Bangladesh and comes after the recent trip of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during which India operationalised a USD 4.5 billion line of credit to Bangladesh to enable implementation of development projects in key areas, including power, railways, roads and shipping. The announcement of the line of credit was made duringHasina’s visit to India in April.
The development is also seen as India’s attempt to counter rising Chinese influence in Bangladesh, where Beijing is trying to make inroads in infrastructure ventures.