New Delhi: India and Bangladesh on Tuesday decided to begin negotiations on a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) this year, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra announced addressing a special briefing on the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to New Delhi.
The decision was taken during the bilateral talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina at Hyderabad House.
“India is the largest market for Bangladeshi products in Asia and despite the pandemic, bilateral trade has reached all time high of US dollar 18 billion in the last financial year.
“To sustain this momentum both leaders have directed concerned ministries to commence negotiations on a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) this year in 2022 and complete it in time for Bangladesh’s final graduation from the LDC status,” said Kwatra.
Kwatra said Hasina’s visit is part of the ongoing sustained political engagement between the two countries.
Talking about the frequent visits of the leaders of both the countries, Kwatra said that “these back to back exchanges at the highest level underscore the special nature of our relationship and importance that both our countries attach to our growing strategic partnership”.
He said that both Prime Ministers held extensive and productive discussions on the entire range of bilateral issues including political and security cooperation, energy partnership, water cooperation, trade and economic ties, development partnership and strengthening of people to people ties.
They also exchange views and perspectives on regional and global issues, he said.
The Foreign Secretary said there was agreement between both on the significance of further strengthening bilateral and regional cooperation to sustain prosperity in these challenging times.
The prime ministers unveiled and inaugurated important development projects including unit 1 of our joint power plant and Rupsha bridge and witness the exchange of seven MoUs in the areas of water resources, capacity building, railways, science and technology, and media, he added.
Informing about the main issues that came up in discussions between the two leaders, Kwatra said that they underscored the importance of continuing our close security cooperation, in the fields of counter terrorism, border management and addressing cross border crimes.
“They agreed to further enhance out development partnership including upgradation of railway infrastructure projects in Bangladesh. Bangladesh as we all know is one of India’s important development partners.
Both leaders agreed to build resilience supply chains between both countries and across the region,” Kwatra said.
As part of their vision for a better connected region, the two leaders also shared perspectives on further strengthening cooperation in road, rail, inland waterways and coastal connectivity, he added.
“The recent trial runs multimodal Freight through Mangla ports to India’s Northeastern region have been encouraging. We look forward to their early completion and early operationalization of this route,” he said.
The two leaders welcomed ongoing discussions on establishing cross border interconnections to help both India and Bangladesh meet their energy needs.
They also reviewed progress on India Bangladesh friendship pipeline- a project that we are undertaking through ground which will enable movement of high speed diesel from India to northern Bangladesh.
“In this context, we welcome the recent decision of Bangladesh to list Indian Oil Corporation Limited as a registered government to government supply of refined petroleum products which will, of course, further help boosting cooperation between out two countries in the energy sector,” he said.
“The two leaders welcome the signing of an interim water sharing arrangement for the Kushiyara river that will bring benefits to the people of Southern Assam and Sylhet division in Bangladesh. This will be the first bilateral water sharing arrangement between the two countries since the Ganges Treaty in 1996,” he added.
Kwatra said that it was also decided that both sides will continue to work expeditiously to address common challenges such as flood management, river pollution etc.
Modi and Hasina agreed to further strengthen people to people link by focussing on youth exchanges between the two countries.
In this context, India eagerly awaits receiving a 100 member youth delegation from Bangladesh scheduled to visit later in October, he said.
He said that Sheikh Hasina is due to interact with business leaders of both the countries on Wednesday in which Minister for development of north eastern region G Kishan Reddy will also participate.
“Sheikh Hasina’s program tomorrow also includes an event to confer scholarships to the descendants of Indian armed forces personnel martyred and critically injured during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971,” Kwatra said adding that India deeply appreciates this gesture.