B'desh PM Hasina offers Chittagong Port for use by India as Jaishankar calls on her

Bdesh PM Hasina offers Chittagong Port for use by India as Jaishankar calls on her

Dhaka: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday called on Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who underlined the importance of connectivity between the two neighbours and offered her country's main seaport - Chittagong Port - to India's landlocked northeastern states like Assam and Tripura.

Jaishankar, who arrived here on Thursday on a brief official visit, handed over an invitation to Hasina on her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi's behalf to visit New Delhi.

"Thank Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her warm reception. Conveyed personal greetings of PM @narendramodi. Our bilateral relations are moving from strength to strength under the guidance of the two leaders," Jaishankar tweeted.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Hasina said that the two countries have to increase the connectivity further, her press secretary Ihsanul Karim told PTI.

She told Jaishankar that the enhanced connectivity was needed for mutual benefit while it would particularly benefit India's northeastern region in using Bangladesh's southeastern Chittagong port, Karim said.

"If the connectivity is increased, the Indian northeastern states -like Assam and Tripura- can have access to the seaport in Chattogram," she said.

She noted that initiatives were taken to resume cross-border routes between Bangladesh and India which were stopped during the 1965 India-Pakistan war, when Bangladesh was eastern wing of Pakistan.

Karim said a number of bilateral and international issues were discussed during Prime Minister Hasina's more than half an hour long meeting with Jaishankar.

Jaishankar later held "positive discussions" with his Bangladeshi counterpart AK Abdul Momen.

"Agreed that our close neighbourly partnership is progressing steadily. Our shared endeavour would be to take it forward. Looking forward to hosting him for the Joint Consultative Commission," he tweeted.

The Bangladesh foreign ministry said that the two ministers "discussed the bilateral issues between Bangladesh and India. They expressed satisfaction about the ongoing Bangladesh-India cooperation, vowed to further strengthen the bilateral ties, stressed on regional stability for socio-economic development as a whole."

Briefing the media, Jaishankar said that during his talks with Prime Minister Hasina he extended Prime Minister Modi's invitation to her to visit India at the time of her convenience.

"I conveyed (her) that we look forward to her visit to India at a time of her convenience, he said, adding that a number of issues relating to bilateral ties as well as regional and global issues figured during the talks.

Jaishankar said he was looking forward to welcoming Momen to join the 7th round of Joint Consultative Commission meeting in New Delhi, which he said "will provide a good opportunity to lay the ground for the next level of our relationship".

Neither Jaishankar nor Momen, however, talked about the possible dates of the meeting. The Bangladesh foreign minister, however, said by now "we have resolved several big and critical problems with India".

Momen called the pending matters as "minor issues" and asserted that they're "committed to solve them through dialogue."

Jaishankar said Bangladesh and India made good progress in bilateral relations despite the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He said the connectivity between the two neighbours went back to pre-Covid level and New Delhi would resume cross borders bus and railway services shortly after the Eid, which is in the first week of May.

"In fact the Covid itself taught us how important it was to have regional supply chains, value chains so that whether it was essential commodities or Oxygen, medicine or food, we could count on each other at this time of difficulty, he said.

"This also is a matter of satisfaction for us that trade, disbursement of loans on bilateral projects, travel services and investment (between the two countries) are at new heights and they have recovered momentum which was lost during the Covid," he said.

Jaishankar expected early commissioning of new projects with Bangladesh in different sectors including power, energy and connectivity sectors.

He said India also looked forward to stronger sub-regional cooperation and connectivity in the energy sector, particularly the hydropower domain that could offer opportunities for the mutually beneficial cooperation between the countries in the region.

"India is a large producer and consumer of energy and we are very glad to work with our neighbours in that regard including in the BBIN (Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal) framework, he said.

Jaishankar said India would continue to take the lead to structure progressive partnerships of production, transmission and trade in this region.

He called the current period "golden chapter" of bilateral ties, reflected by setting up first Bangabandhu Chair in India, offering Subarna Jayantee scholarships for Bangladeshi students, holding Bangabandhu-Bapu Digital Exhibition and commemorating Maitree Diwas' in 18 capitals apart from Dhaka and New Delhi.

Defence sector cooperation, water sharing of Kushiara and Feni rivers, current Covid -19 situation and impacts of Russia-Ukraine war on the global economy came up prominently in the discussion between Jaishankar and Prime Minister Hasina, Karim was quoted as saying by local media.

Momen also hosted an iftar party followed by a dinner in Jaishankar's honour at the Foreign Service Academy.

Jaishankar would leave Dhaka for Bhutan on Friday morning.

His last visit to Bangladesh was in March last year.

Momen said he is happy about his Indian counterpart's visit as Bangladesh and India have been enjoying a "sweet" relation .

Hasina last visited New Delhi in October 2019 to attend the Indian Economic Summit of the World Economic Forum (WEF) when she also had bilateral talks with her Indian counterpart.

Modi, on the other hand, visited Bangladesh on March 26-27 last year at Hasina's invitation to join golden jubilee celebration of the country's independence, birth centenary of Bangladesh's Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the 50th years of establishment of Bangladesh-India diplomatic relations.

President Ram Nath Kovind also paid a state visit to Dhaka from December 15-17 last year at the invitation of his Bangladesh counterpart Abdul Hamid to attend the 50th victory day celebration of Bangladesh.

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