Two prime ministers stress on regional stability

Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi shake hands during the bilateral meeting in New Delhi on 8 September 2023.
Twitter/Narendra Modi

Bangladesh and India have agreed to take effective initiatives to further strengthen the existing ties between the two countries during the bilateral meeting between prime minister Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi.

Both the prime ministers stressed on regional peace and stability as well as political and security cooperation in the meeting. An exclusive meeting was also held between the two prime ministers later.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi tweeted after the meeting saying the meeting with the prime minister Sheikh Hasina in Delhi after almost two years was fruitful.

Modi wrote in the tweet following the meeting at his official residence Lok Kalyan Marg in New Delhi that, “Had productive deliberations with PM Sheikh Hasina. The progress in India-Bangladesh relations in the last 9 years has been very gladdening. Our talks covered areas like connectivity, commercial linkage and more.”

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Bangladesh is taking part in the G-20 summit, which kicks off today, Saturday morning, at the invitation of India. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina reached New Delhi on Friday evening to join the G-20 Summit.

There have been widespread speculations whether there was any discussion regarding election and politics during the formal meeting between the prime ministers of the two neighbouring countries ahead of the general election in Bangladesh.

Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen spoke to newspersons at the Grand New Delhi Hotel after the meeting. In response to a question, the foreign minister said, “There was no talk regarding the upcoming elections in the bilateral meeting. However, we don't know whether the issue was raised during the exclusive meeting between the two prime ministers.”

However, the Indian foreign ministry has issued a statement regarding the meeting between two prime ministers last night. It said the two leaders discussed overall aspects of bilateral relations including political and security cooperation, border maintenance, trade and connectivity, water resources, power and energy, development, cultural exchange and people-to-people contacts. There have also been discussions about the current situation and the cooperation between the two countries in international forums.

Bangladesh has recently been under pressure from the West over holding a free and fair election. Again, India is emphasising regional stability. According to Indian media, India will contribute to supporting the government of Bangladesh in the face of Western pressure.

Replying to a query on whether there was any discussion on the issue of regional stability, foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said, “Peace and stability are our agenda. Both countries want regional stability to continue in South Asia and that is a good thing, and India agrees with us on it.”

The Bangladesh foreign minister said the bilateral meeting was effective. Both prime ministers agreed to deepen the existing Bangladesh-India ties and the Indian prime minister stressed holding talks to resolve the unsettled issues between both countries.

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Abdul Momen said prime minister Sheikh Hsaina sought the cooperation of India on the repatriation of Rohingyas and the Indian prime minister expressed his deep gratitude to the Bangladesh prime minister for her contribution to ensure peaceful situations in the Northeast of India.

“India is our second largest trade partner. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina requested the Indian government to ensure an uninterrupted supply of essentials to Bangladesh. Besides, both prime ministers agreed to foster our existing efforts and activities to increase railway and roadway communication at bilateral and regional level connectivity with India,” he added.

Three MoUs signed

At the press conference, the foreign minister said India and Bangladesh signed three memorandums of understanding (MoUs) on easing transactions between both countries, agriculture research and training, and cultural exchange.

A statement from the Indian foreign ministry said both prime ministers welcomed the operationalisation of the agreement on the use of the Chattogram and Mongla ports and commissioning of the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline and looked forward to beginning negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), covering trade in goods, services, and protecting and promoting investment. Recently, India welcomed the Indo-Pacific Outlook of Bangladesh.

The G20 Summit opens today, Saturday. Indian prime minister invited nine countries, including Bangladesh to attend the summit as ‘guest country’.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to address two sessions. She is expected to meet with the Saudi Arabian crown prince and prime minister Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, Argentine president Alberto Angel Fernandez, South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol and United Arab Emirates (UAE) president Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

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On 10 September, the second and last day of the G20 summit, Sheikh Hasina along with the leaders of other countries will pay homage at the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi at Raj Ghat.

Later, she will join the concluding session of the conference. The "G20 New Delhi Leaders Declaration" will be adopted on the last day of the summit.

Meanwhile, Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of the Indian state of West Bengal, will join a dinner in New Delhi today, Saturday at the invitation of the Indian president Droupadi Murmu, and prime minister Sheikh Hasina may meet Mamata Banerjee there.

Sheikh Hasina will return home on Sunday after attending the G20 closing ceremony and she will receive French President Emmanuel Macron in Dhaka.

The G20 comprises 19 countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States) and the European Union.

The G20 members represent around 85 per cent of the global GDP, over 75 per cent of the global trade, and about two-thirds of the world population.