April 29, 2022
DHAKA – Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said India will take lead in structuring partnership for production, transmission and trade of energy, especially hydropower, between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal.
“India looks forward to a stronger sub-regional cooperation on connectivity and energy sector and other areas. Particularly, the hydropower domain offers opportunity for mutually beneficial cooperation between our countries in the region,” he said.
Dhaka has been pushing for regional hydropower initiative as it aims to get more renewable energy to achieve climate mitigation target.
“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 [a sub-regional grouping among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal] framework.”
The visiting Indian external affairs minister was talking to reporters after a meeting with his Bangladesh counterpart AK Abdul Momen before attending an Iftar at the Foreign Service Academy yesterday.
Jaishankar arrived in Dhaka around 2:00pm by a special flight on a one-day visit. He called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and conveyed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s message and invitation to visit India. He will leave for Bhutan this morning.
“We discussed a number of issues. We reviewed bilateral ties as well as regional and global issues,” said the Indian minister whose visit is aimed at deepening bilateral engagement.
At the meeting, Hasina said India’s northeastern states like Assam and Tripura can use Chittagong seaport by strengthening the connectivity between the two neighbouring countries, reports UNB, quoting PM’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim as saying.
“If the connectivity is increased, Indian northeastern states like Assam and Tripura can have access to the seaport in Chattogram,” she said when Jaishankar met her at her official residence Gono Bhaban.
Both of them expressed happiness at the state of the existing bilateral relations between the two countries. Hasina said high-level visits give impetus to carry forward the relations between the two nations.
Various issues, including defence cooperation, water sharing of Kushiara and Feni Rivers, the current Covid situation and impacts of Russia-Ukraine war on the global economy came up for the discussion.
At the Foreign Service Academy, Momen said it’s unique the way the two countries celebrated the golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence and worked together last year.
“From that perspective, whatever small problems we have, we will solve. You know we have solved many major problems,” he said.
Jaishankar said the connectivity between the two countries is back to pre-Covid level now, and they are looking at resuming cross border bus and railway services soon.
“It is also a matter of satisfaction for us that trade, disbursement of loan on bilateral projects, travel services, and investments are at new heights, and that they have recovered momentum, which was lost during the Covid.”
He said Covid has taught how important it is to have regional supply chains and value chains for essential commodities, including oxygen, medicine and food.
Jaishankar said he hopes to see early commissioning of many projects, including in power and energy sector as well as connectivity. He is also looking forward to Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) meeting in New Delhi likely in late May.
He avoided replying to a question on Momen’s recent statement that Dhaka sought India’s help for withdrawal of US sanctions on Rab.
“I think that is a question that you need to ask Dr Momen, not me,” he said.
At that, Momen said, “We are working on it.”
Our New Delhi Correspondent reports: at a regular briefing in New Delhi,
spokesperson for India’s external affairs ministry Arindam Bagchi avoided a similar question from journalists.
“I am not going to say anything at this point on what the discussions have been or have received it in advance… Let the visit happen and then we will see if we are in a position to share with you any further details on this,” he said.