PM Modi may launch trading points, connectivity projects in Dhaka
The launch of more border trading points and connectivity projects linking India and Bangladesh is expected to be among key takeaways from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to India’s closest regional neighbour later this month.
Modi is expected to be in Dhaka on 26-27 March for the centenary celebrations of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, the father of the nation, the 50th anniversary of the birth of Bangladesh and five decades of diplomatic ties between India and Bangladesh.
Ahead of Modi’s visit, foreign minister S. Jaishankar is to visit Dhaka on Thursday to firm up the agenda and possible deliverables, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Bangladesh marks Modi’s first visit abroad after a year when the covid-19 pandemic brought all physical trips and meetings to a halt, underlining the special the eastern neighbour occupies in New Delhi’s “neighbourhood first" policy.
Ties with Dhaka have been described by officials as the “vital cog" in the “neighbourhood first" initiative. Dhaka is India’s biggest development partner, with New Delhi having extended three lines of credit worth $ 8 billion in the past eight years for development of roads, railways, shipping, ports and other infrastructure.
One of the takeaways expected from Modi’s visit is the inauguration of more “border haats" or trading markets. Last week, Bangladesh high commissioner to India Muhammad Imran visited Assam and Meghalaya. In Meghalaya Imran discussed the possibility of opening up new trading points along their common border. There are already four such points each in Meghalaya and Tripura.
The opening of new border haats is aimed at increasing trade between India’s landlocked northeast and Bangladesh besides promoting people-to-people contact.
Modi’s visit may see the inauguration of a bridge over the river Feni connecting South Tripura with Ramgarh in Bangladesh. The bridge—about two kilometres long whose construction was started in 2017 —is seen as key for a seamless connection with Bangladesh’s Chittagong port.
The covid-19 pandemic has caused a slowdown in the construction process but the bridge is seen as nearing completion, according to news reports.