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Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina’s India visit scheduled for 7-10 April

LiveMint logoLiveMint 14-03-2017 Elizabeth Roche elizabeth.r@livemint.com

New Delhi: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will visit India during 7-10 April, the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement issued on Tuesday, in a trip aimed at strengthening ties between her country and Asia’s third largest economy.

“The two leaders (Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi) will hold official talks in New Delhi on 8 April,” the foreign ministry statement said. “This visit comes seven years after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s last visit to India in January 2010 and almost two years after Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Bangladesh in June 2015.”

“The upcoming visit is expected to further expand cordial and cooperative relationship between India and Bangladesh and build on the strong ties of friendship and trust between the leaders,” the statement added.

The schedule of Hasina’s visit was decided after a visit by India’s foreign secretary S. Jaishankar to Dhaka last month. Jaishankar’s visit was seen as preparing the ground for or seeking to firm up the deliverables before Hasina’s India visit.

A statement put out by the Indian high commission in Dhaka at that time had said the Indian and Bangladeshi foreign secretaries “took stock of decisions taken during the recent meetings of various bilateral mechanisms in the areas of security and border management, trade and commerce, power, energy, shipping, railways,etc.”

The statement, however, had made no mention of Hasina’s visit.

India-Bangladesh ties have seen an upswing since the two countries completed procedures for the ratification of a 1974 border pact during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Dhaka trip in 2015.

However, there is no consensus yet on removing another irritant—sharing of the waters of the Teesta and Feni rivers—during Hasina’s visit.

The Teesta river, which has its source in Sikkim, flows through the northern part of West Bengal in India before entering Bangladesh and joining the Brahmaputra river.

Waters of the Teesta are crucial for Bangladesh, especially from December to March when the water flow falls below 1,000 cusecs from 5,000 cusecs.

India and Bangladesh were expected to sign the river water-sharing pact in 2011, but the plan fell through after West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee said the agreement was skewed against the people of her state. She pulled out of a trip to Dhaka where she was to accompany then PM Manmohan Singh.

Modi had extended an invitation to Hasina to visit India during his Bangladesh tour in 2015. Sheikh Hasina was to visit India in December 2016 but the the programme fell through due to scheduling problems.

During MoS (external affairs) M.J. Akbar’s Dhaka visit in December 2016, it was suggested that Hasina’s trip might take place in February 2017, but this too had to be postponed due to Modi’s parliamentary commitments and his election campaigning schedules. Hasina too was busy with the World Economic Forum (WEF), among other programmes, reports quoting Bangladeshi officials said.

Hasina did visit India in October 2016 to attend the Bimstec Outreach Meeting in Goa with leaders of the Brics countries. She had met Modi on the sidelines of the summit.

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