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India, Bangladesh explore new areas of cooperation in advanced tech, AI, ecology & vaccines

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New Delhi: India and Bangladesh have decided to explore new areas of cooperation including latest technologies, disaster management, artificial intelligence, ecology and conservation and greater youth to youth engagement to give further momentum to their burgeoning ties. In keeping with India’s Neighbourhood First Policy Bangladesh will also be accorded priority in the areas of vaccines and therapeutics.

These among other issues of mutual benefit were discussed when Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, called on the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka on Monday.

The visit of Foreign Secretary to Dhaka occurred in the context of developing a roadmap for jointly commemorating the 100th anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between India and Bangladesh and the liberation of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh observes the month of mourning in August in the memory of Bangabandhu whose values and life are equally regarded and cherished in India as in Bangladesh.

In this historic year of Mujib Barsho, India will be issuing a commemorative stamp as their tribute to Bangabandhu . Both sides will also be holding a series of other events celebrating the life and values of Sheikh Mujib. The next year is equally special as both sides will honour their martyrs who had sacrificed their lives for a noble and a just cause.

The leadership on the two sides have remained in regular touch through phone calls and exchanges, which has helped ensure that the cooperation even during the Covid times has continued uninterrupted. To sustain this momentum, the two Foreign Ministers will also be holding their next joint consultative commission meeting, ET has learnt.

Shringla conveyed warm greetings to the Prime Minister from PM Narendra Modi. Prime Minister Modi was scheduled to visit Dhaka to attend the inaugural Mujib Borsho celebrations earlier in March this year. With his visit deferred due to the Covid pandemic, PM Modi had shared a video message paying his tributes to Bangabandhu on the occasion.

The Foreign Secretary briefed Hasina on India’s ongoing efforts in the wake of COVID-19. On vaccine development, he informed that testing for the three vaccines was in different stages and that India would be launching a massive production exercise once a go-ahead was received from the scientific community, highly placed sources told ET.

He informed Hasina that India had already drawn up an outline to ramp up the production of the vaccines and to make it available to each and every person in the shortest possible time. India had provided timely Covid related assistance to Bangladesh including providing testing kits, medicines, surgical gloves and other equipment. India has also been conducting training for the Bangladeshi medical professionals in Bangla language.

India’s ongoing projects in Bangladesh are aimed at improving infrastructure in sectors like ports, power, railways and roads making the investment environment all the more conductive in Bangladesh. India is also developing Indian Economic Zones in Mirasarai and Mongla Next year as both countries celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties, some strategic projects will get inaugurated like the Akhaura -Agartala rail link and Maitree power project, sources told ET.

India through its High Impact Community Development Projects ( HICDP) has also undertaken over 40 social economic projects in areas relating to sanitation, waste management, restoration, health etc. under grant-in-aid.

On the trade front, Bangladesh’s exports to India have crossed 1 billion making India the second country in Asia after Japan where its exports have crossed a billion mark. Currently, India trades more with Bangladesh than any other South Asian neighbour. Contours of a comprehensive economic partnership agreement are being discussed between the two sides, sources informed.

Cooperation in security has remained a vital component of bilateral engagement. Both sides have a robust ongoing cooperation in security matters and counter terrorism and have also intensified their exchanges and sharing of information in the area in the area of anti-radicalization and counterterrorism.

There has also been good cooperation in power and energy. India’s supply of 1160 MW of power at reasonable cost is over 9 % of the maximum power demand in Bangladesh. India is also constructing a 1320 MW powerplant plant in Khulna under its concessional financing scheme.

The cooperation in the area of nuclear energy has also seen significant progress. India is offering capacity building programmes or the Bangladesh nuclear scientists.

In view of the close people to people ties, both sides are in active discussion on commencing air bubble flights, sources informed. This will help the business and the student community on the two sides and will also facilitate the travel of people seeking medical assistance. Last year alone , 1.6 million visas were issued to the Bangladeshi nationals, making our visa operations largest in Bangladesh .

Both sides recognize that increasing connectivity through air, water, rail, road offers mutually beneficial opportunities for augmenting economic cooperation between Bangladesh and India particularly with the North Eastern States of India .Connectivity received a big boost when for the first time ever Indian cargo from Kolkata to Agartala moved via the Chattogram Port. India also recently handed over 10 locomotives to Bangladesh to strengthen its freight and passenger connectivity.

The signing of a second addendum to the Protocol on Inland Water Trade& and Transit has contributed to the future strengthening of the regional connectivity comprising hinterland states of East India with Bangladesh and the North East India. The commencement of parcel and container train services between the two countries have helped in a cheaper, more efficient and friendly mode of trade between the two sides.

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