India and Bangladesh will sign several agreements and unveil new measures to boost people-to-people contacts during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit this week, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla said on Wednesday.
Modi is set to participate with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina in the neighbouring country’s National Day celebrations on Friday. This is Modi’s first foreign visit since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, and he will also deliver a speech at the event at the national parade ground in Dhaka.
Though Bangladesh has invited four heads of state and government from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives to join the celebrations marking 50 years of its independence, Modi will be the only leader to join the main celebrations on March 26.
“As a reflection of the growing cooperation, both sides will sign a range of agreements during the prime minister’s visit. These agreements will cover a number of areas of our cooperation,” Shringla told a media briefing ahead of the visit.
Some of the agreements will cover areas such as disaster management, trade and oceanography. The two sides will also be looking at a comprehensive trade-related agreement, and continuing discussions on a comprehensive economic partnership.
“We will also have new announcements covering cooperation in areas of culture, preservation of the spirit of 1971, health, railways, education, border development, power cooperation and start-ups,” Shringla said.
The visit will especially reflect the India-Bangladesh relationship based on strong political and people-to-people ties, which has “facilitated a partnership marked by conversations and discussions in candour, friendship and comfort”, he added.
Modi will visit the mausoleum of “Bangabandhu” Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of the nation, at Tungipara in Gopalganj district, thus becoming the first Indian dignitary to visit the site, Shringla said.
The Indian premier is also set to visit two Hindu temples outside Dhaka – the Jeshoreshwari Kali temple in Satkhira and the Matua temple in Orakandi – on March 27. These temples are revered by the Matua community, a large number of whom live in West Bengal.
“This visit will be of very special significance and will serve to highlight our unique and special ties, which reinforce our comprehensive strategic partnership with Bangladesh,” Shringla said. Bangladesh is also at the “intersection” of India’s “Neighbourhood First” and “Act East” polices and the scene of India’s largest visa operation, he added.
Besides the National Day celebrations, Modi is visiting at a time when Bangladesh is celebrating Mujib Borsho, the birth centenary of Rahman, and the golden jubilee of diplomatic ties.
Modi will meet Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid and will hold restricted and delegation-level talks with Hasina. He will also interact with representatives of the country’s 14-party ruling alliance, opposition leaders, freedom fighters and youth leaders.