Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar will be arriving in Dhaka today on a three-day visit to further improve the bilateral relations of the two neighbours.
This is his maiden visit to Bangladesh after his appointment as minister of the BJP-led government in May this year.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen will receive his Indian counterpart at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 9:20pm.
Jaishankar is scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting with Momen on Tuesday and leave Dhaka the next day.
The visit comes ahead of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s planned state visit to Delhi in the first week of October, and following two important meetings -- one at the home minister level in Delhi on August 7 and the other at the water secretary level meeting on August 8.
Foreign Minister Momen recently said it was Jaishankar’s courtesy visit to Dhaka. However, a foreign ministry official said the visit will involve meetings regarding water sharing of 54 common rivers (including the Teesta), Indian Line of Credit, the Rohingya crisis, and regional connectivity and trade.
The issues will also be priorities during Hasina’s Delhi visit.
Teesta water sharing agreement could not be signed between India and Bangladesh during the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in 2011 due to objections from West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Officials at the water resources ministry told The Daily Star last week that Indian water ministry officials during the meeting in Dhaka communicated that they too felt bad as the deal could not be signed in so many years.
However, the meeting, led by Bangladesh’s Water Resources Secretary Kabir Bin Anwar and Indian Water Resources Secretary Upendra Prasad Singh on August 8, decided to work on water sharing and basin management of seven common rivers -- Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Feni, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.
“Teesta is only one of the 54 common rivers. As there are some issues with Teesta, we cannot sit on [issues regarding] other rivers,” a water resources ministry official of Bangladesh told The Daily Star.
The officials of the two countries also decided to conduct a feasibility study on the proposed Ganges Barrage project, especially on its impacts on the environment and people’s livelihoods both in Bangladesh and India.
Bangladesh, which is bearing the brunt of sheltering some 1.1 million Rohingyas, has repeatedly requested India to play a stronger role in the repatriation of the refugees to Myanmar.
Referring to a meeting with Jaishankar on the sidelines of ASEAN Regional Forum meeting in Bangkok earlier this month, Momen said India wants early repatriation of the Rohingya refugees.
India has been criticised for not playing a strong role internationally for the accountability of the Myanmar military, which cracked down on Rohingyas in 2017. UN investigators have described the act as having “genocidal intent”.
A foreign ministry official said India was expanding its connectivity in Myanmar and Southeast Asia. However, if the Rohingya crisis is not solved, the regional connectivity and development would be affected.
During the home minister-level meeting between Bangladesh and India on August 7 in Delhi, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah raised the issue of illegal movement of people across the border and urged Bangladesh to take action in this regard.
Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told Amit Shah that no Bangladeshi goes to India illegally as the economy of Bangladesh is in good shape.
Gautam Lahiri, an Indian expert on Bangladesh, urged India to handle the issue of illegal immigration carefully and to ignore domestic compulsion amidst apprehensions that Bangladesh might get closer to China, reports India’s Financial Express Online on August 16.
Jaishankar, during his visit to Dhaka, will try to find a middle ground on this issue, Lahiri said.
While there may be a difference of opinion on illegal immigrants, India will fully support Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s development agenda, Lahiri adds.
INDIAN LINES OF CREDIT
Foreign Minister Momen recently told The Daily Star that Dhaka wants speedy disbursement of Indian Lines of Credit (LoC) as projects under the three LoCs worth around $7.5 billion are facing delays mainly due to technical and bureaucratic reasons.
In the last eight years, Bangladesh managed to use $523 million of the first LoC worth $862 million despite various steps to expedite utilisation of the funds.
Bangladesh has so far used $14 million of the $2-billion second LoC. India is yet to disburse any money from the $4.5-billion third LoC, officials said.
“I have asked the officials to take stock of projects and find the bottlenecks and ways to speed up the projects,” Momen said.