Prime Minister Modi concludes visit to Bangladesh and calls for greater bilateral cooperation

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Saturday reviewed progress on development and connectivity initiatives even as the two countries signed five agreements in areas ranging from trade to disaster management.

On the second and final day of his first overseas visit since the Covid-19 outbreak last year, Modi had one-on-one talks with Hasina in Dhaka. This was followed by discussions at delegation level which lasted over an hour. The two leaders discussed progress in areas such as trade, connectivity, health, energy and development cooperation, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi.

The two sides signed five Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) covering disaster management and mitigation, establishment of a framework for cooperation in trade remedies, establishment of sports facilities in Rajshahi College, the cooperation between the Bangladesh National Cadet Corps and India’s National Cadet Corps, and the provision of ICT equipment, reference books and training for the Bangladesh-Bharat Employment and Digital Services Training Center.

“We had a productive meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. We have reviewed the entire relationship between India and Bangladesh and discussed ways to deepen economic and cultural ties in the times to come, ”Modi tweeted. The new MoUs will strengthen the development partnership and benefit people on both sides, especially young people, he said.

Modi handed Hasina a symbolic key for 109 ambulances donated by India and also donated 1.2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine as a grant.

The two leaders practically inaugurated several projects, including three “haats” or border markets and the extended development of Rabindra Bhawan at Shilaidaha Kuthibari, a country house in Kushtia where Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore spent part of his life. They practically laid the foundation stone for the infrastructure development of the Rooppur nuclear power plant, jointly built by Russia and India.

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Hasina presented Modi with released gold and silver coins to mark the centenary of the birth of her father, “Bongobandhu” Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The two leaders issued postage stamps marking 50 years of diplomatic relations.

Modi’s visit coincided with celebrations marking the centenary of Rahman’s birth and 50 years of the Bangladesh Liberation War. On Friday, Modi was the only foreign leader invited to attend celebrations marking Bangladesh’s Golden Jubilee of Independence, and he called for greater bilateral cooperation to address common challenges such as terrorism and to boost commerce and connectivity.

Earlier on Saturday, Modi became the first foreign head of government to visit Bongobandhu Mausoleum in Tungipara. He also visited two historic Hindu temples at Satkhira and Orakandi, a movement of symbolic significance for elections in the Indian states of West Bengal and Assam, which share borders with Bangladesh.

Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana took Modi around the Tungipara mausoleum complex. He paid homage at Bongobandhu’s grave and planted a sapling “bakul” to commemorate the historic event. Modi also signed the mausoleum’s guestbook and wrote that Bongobandhu’s life “embodied the struggle for freedom of the people of Bangladesh for their rights, for the preservation of their inclusive culture and identity”.

Modi started the day by performing the puja at the centuries-old Jeshoreshwari Kali Shaktipeeth in Satkhira, a temple dedicated to the goddess Kali and one of the 51 shaktipeeth of the Puranic tradition. He placed a handmade gold-plated silver “mukut,” which was made by a local craftsman in three weeks, on the idol.

He also announced a grant for the construction of a community cyclone shelter in the temple complex. This structure will be used during the temple’s annual Kali puja and mela and will also serve as a storm shelter and community facility.

In Orakandi, Modi sought blessings from the Hari Mandir and interacted with the descendants of Harichand Thakur, a Hindu mystical and spiritual guru. He addressed the community members of Matua and said that India and Bangladesh want to see the progress of the whole world through their development and progress. Both countries want stability, love and peace instead of instability, terror and unrest, and these are the same values ​​preached by Harichand Thakur, he said.

Modi said India is moving forward with the slogan “Sabka saath, sabka vikas and sabka vishwas”, and Bangladesh is a “shoho jatri” (traveling companion) in these efforts. At the same time, Bangladesh is a strong example of development and change for the world and India is Bangladesh’s “shoho jatri” in these efforts, he said.

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He announced several initiatives, including the modernization of the college for girls in Orakandi and the creation of a primary school. He said that measures would be taken to facilitate the travel of a large number of people who come from India to Orakandi every year to participate in “Baruni Snan” on the occasion of Harichand Thakur’s birthday.

Orakandi is home to the Matua Hindu community, many of whom also live in West Bengal. Modi was accompanied by Shantanu Thakur, a BJP MP from West Bengal, on the visit to Orakandi, and observers said the trip had political significance in the context of the West Bengal elections.

The Matua community vote is expected to determine the winners at certain seats in the West Bengal assembly.

“My visit to the Orakandi Thakurbari is an experience that I will remember for a lifetime. It is a very sacred place, closely associated with the Matua community, ”Modi tweeted.

Modi described Bangladesh as a key pillar of India’s ‘neighborhood first’ policy, while Hasina called India a ‘true friend’ and said both sides could play an important role in the chains of global and regional value by further integrating their economies and boosting connectivity.