What’s on the table for Hasina’s high-profile state visit to India? Water-sharing and energy are key agenda

According to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade, Bangladesh is now India's biggest trade partner in South Asia and the bilateral trade has grown from $9 billion to $18 billion in the last five years

Staff Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 4 Sept 2022, 08:02 PM
Updated : 4 Sept 2022, 08:02 PM

Bangladesh and India are likely to discuss a range of issues to boost cooperation in areas of energy, defence and border security, trade and investment, rail communications, human and narcotics trafficking, and water-sharing during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's four-day trip to India, scheduled to kick off from Monday.

Both sides are expected to sign several agreements, including one on interim sharing of the Kushiyara river water following talks between Hasina and her Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, on Tuesday.

Dhaka and New Delhi had finalised the text of the memorandum of understanding, or MoU, on interim sharing of the water of the Kushiyara river in August at the 38th ministerial-level meeting of the Joint Rivers Commission.

Both the countries share 54 rivers, of which seven were identified earlier for developing a framework of water-sharing agreements on priority.

In an interview published on Sunday, Hasina said India should show “more broadness” in sharing the water of the Teesta and other rivers, calling the country a “tested friend” of Bangladesh.

The premiers of the neighbouring countries have met 12 times since 2015. Modi travelled to Bangladesh to attend events organised to mark the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 50 years of Bangladesh’s independence.


During the visit, Sheikh Hasina will pay her respects to the shrines of Nizamuddin Auliya in the older part of Delhi and Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer, Rajasthan.

She is expected to address a meeting of top business leaders and a ceremony for awarding "Mujib scholarship" to direct descendants of military men in India, who died or were critically wounded during the 1971 Liberation War.

The prime minister will also call on President Droupadi Murmu and Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar, according to the official schedule.


In a briefing on Sunday, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, who will also be a part of Hasina’s entourage, said the Bangladesh side is hopeful that a “specific direction” in regards to where this “special relationship” between the two neighbouring countries is headed can be found during the visit.

“We hope that this trip [the state visit to India] will strengthen the cooperation between two countries for bilateral matters,” he said.

“The visit is seen to play a supporting role in taking necessary programmes between the two countries to face different challenges amid the Ukraine crisis, global economic downturn and the ongoing COVID19 pandemic.”

The minister said the prime minister will lead a high-level delegation which includes several ministers, advisers, state ministers, secretaries and senior officials. Representatives from business bodies of Bangladesh will also accompany the prime minister during the visit.

According to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade, Bangladesh is now India's biggest trade partner in South Asia and the bilateral trade has grown from $9 billion to $18 billion in the last five years.

In recent years, both countries were able to achieve progress on important connectivity initiatives, such as the inauguration of the Maitri bridge over river Feni in Tripura and the rollout of the Chilahati-Haldibari rail link.


Sources within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the issue of engaging India in purchasing Russian oil will also be discussed during the meeting.

After returning from an official trip in May, Minister Momen had hinted that there was a possibility that Bangladesh may seek India’s support to import oil from Russia, sidestepping the sanction imposed on the oil-rich nation.

“We asked [India] how they did it [import oil from Russia]. They [India] said they have found some tricks,” Momen said.

His junior colleague in the ministry, M Shahriar Alam, however, brushed off the possibility during the briefing on Sunday.

“We are not going to discuss purchasing Russian oil through India. We want to buy Indian oil,” he said.


In an interview with Indian agency Asian News International, published on Sunday ahead of her New Delhi visit, Hasina said the long-standing problem like water-sharing should be resolved because she firmly believes India would also be benefitted from it.

“It is very sad. We are downstream and water is coming from India. So India should show more broadness. Because both the countries will be beneficiaries.”

Asked whether she feels the minorities in Bangladesh are as secure and as robust as the majority community in the wake of attacks targeting Hindus, Hasina said as long as the Awami League is in power, Bangladesh gives importance to protecting its minorities.

Though she admitted that some sporadic incidents do take place sometimes which her government deals with zealotry, she also pointed out that minorities in India sometimes suffer too.

“You never want it. But you know very well it is not only Bangladesh. even in India also sometimes minorities suffer,” she noted.

“So I think that both the countries should show their magnanimity and our part, you know Bangladesh is a secular country. We have many religions and religious harmony here.”

She said India and Bangladesh should cooperate to solve these problems related to religious hatred.