India

Sheikh Hasina’s India visit likely in April: Bangladeshi official

Sheikh Hasina’s India visit likely in April: Bangladeshi official

New Delhi: A top Bangladeshi official has said the much-anticipated visit by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India was likely to take place in April during which key issues like Teesta water sharing and Padma Bridge were expected to be discussed.

Significantly, New Delhi last week announced that Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar will be visiting Dhaka on February 23-24 to discuss Hasina’s visit and other related aspects including agenda for talks between the visiting dignitary and the leadership here.

“So many drafts are being made by both the countries…We are closest than ever before with agreements on every possible fora. And, nothing will be done by India and Bangladesh without consulting each other,” the official, a top aide of the Bangladesh prime minister, said.

“She will visit sometime in April,” the official said, noting that next month would be busy due to Bangladesh Independence Day on March 26 and other government activities.

The much-anticipated visit of the Bangladesh prime minister was first slated to happen last December to discuss a wide range of bilateral issues with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, but the plan got postponed.

In late January, Bangladeshi officials had indicated that her visit was likely to be delayed further due to Hasina’s engagement at the World Economic Forum, among other programmes.

Asked about the issues likely to come up during the meet, the source said, “There would be several areas that would figure, including the Padma Bridge… Also, we are trying to set up power bases in Nepal and Bhutan.

“We need permission from India for these projects, as cable and other infrastructure would be passing through India. But, this would be a bilateral matter and not part of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) or BBIM (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal) sub-regional architecture,” the source said.

There are many areas to discuss and we are getting a lot of support from India, the source said.

On the Teesta issue being part of her visit agenda, the source said, “We understand the problem…but NDA government is doing its best… Prime Minister Modi himself is doing it, and we hope that Mamata Banerjee will agree in the near future…but this will be a new framework and not the old framework.”

A source in the Prime Minister’s Office in Dhaka and three Awami League policymakers had in December said the Teesta issue requires the consent of the West Bengal Chief Minister, who is protesting the NDA’s government’s demonetisation move.

Since Mamata has overtly expressed her dissatisfaction,the Bangladesh administration, keeping everything in mind, realised that it was not a suitable time to discuss the Teesta issue, the Dhaka Tribune had reported in December.

Hasina, in December, had told reporters in Dhaka, that “I am going to India, I am not going with any conditions… discussion is on for Teesta river water sharing and we are hopeful”.

In October, Modi had met Hasina on the sidelines of BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit in Goa.