India and Bangladesh are expected to sign at least seven agreements on September 6, 2022 covering diverse areas such as water sharing, connectivity, defence and trade, The Hindu has learnt. The agreements will be sealed following official-level talks that Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will hold with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in New Delhi. Ms. Hasina arrived in New Delhi on September 5, 2022 and was welcomed by Indian High Commissioner to Dhaka Vikram Doraiswamy and Minister of State for Railways and Textiles Darshana Jardosh.

Among the first senior representatives to meet the visiting dignitary was External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar who called on her and said, “The warmth and frequency of our leadership-level contacts is a testimony to our close neighbourly partnership.” Ms. Hasina prayed at the shrine of the Sufi saint Nizamuddin here and later, in the evening, she met with senior diplomats, journalists and professionals at an interaction organised by the Bangladesh High Commission. Minister of Surface Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari, Minister of State for External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi and Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways Vijay Kumar Singh accompanied Ms. Hasina at the event.

Speaking to journalists at a reception at the Bangladesh High Commission on Monday, Ms. Hasina confirmed that she would raise two contentious issues on the river water agreements and Rohingya refugees during her talks with Mr. Modi. “India is a very big country, and can do a lot for the Rohingya, especially in helping their repatriation back [to Myanmar],” Ms. Hasina said in response to a question from The Hindu on what she hoped from India. While the Bangladesh Prime Minister declined to speak about the long-pending Teesta agreement in particular, she said the two countries could cooperate in a number of ways, and suggested that India consider a Line of Credit for dredging and desilting river beds to prevent flooding, as well as to regenerate and revive streams in Bangladesh.

‘Fast Growing Economy’

“Bangladesh is now considered as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. The proportion of our population living below the poverty line has fallen from 31% to nearly 20.5%,” said High Commissioner Mohammed Imran.

Among the agreements that are being planned for Tuesday is the one on the Kushiyara river near Assam. The Joint River Commission Meeting on August 25 had finalised the text of the Kushiyara river agreement. It also had agreed to expand cooperation to areas such as reduction of pollution in the cross-border rivers. India has been sharing real-time flood data with Bangladesh, the period of which has now been further extended. This initiative is aimed at assisting Bangladesh deal with the threat of annual floods.

Sources informed that both sides have started moving on defence-related agreements, including portable and prefabricated bridges that increase mobility for the armed forces during disaster relief and in conflict scenario.

A major focus is also on the power sector. Bangladesh is buying 1,160 MW of power from India and this is expected to go up in the coming period. It is understood that both sides will review the status of power projects that are currently being developed. The construction of India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline that will export diesel from Siliguri to Parbatipur is likely to be completed soon.

Chittagong Hill Tracts

The Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh should be declared a “region of peace”, a coalition of Chakma community organisations has said. The call for the zone of peace in the Chittagong hills came a little after Ms. Hasina arrived in Delhi.

“Though the Chittagong Hill Tracts [CHT] Accord was signed on December 2, 1997, key provisions of the accord, especially handing over of law and order and supervision of the three Hill District Councils of Bandarban, Khagrachhari and Rangamati to the CHT Regional Council, withdrawal of the Bangladesh Army camps established during the armed conflicts within the CHT, remain unimplemented 25 years after signing of the accord,” said Rashik Mohan Chakma, president of the Chakma National Council of India, Mizoram in a statement.

The Chakma community, which has been struggling for civil rights in Bangladesh, said the CHT Accord could be implemented through a joint effort of the Governments of Bangladesh, India, and the Chakma representatives of Bangladesh. They also emphasised that stability of the Chittagong region is of crucial significance as the region has given refuge to more than 1 5 million Rohingya refugees from the Rakhine province of Myanmar since 2017.

“The importance of implementation of the CHT Accord for regional peace and security, especially for Bangladesh, India and Myanmar cannot be stressed enough,” urged Suhas Chakma, founder of the Chakma Development Foundation of India (CDFI), citing the overall security situation in the Chittagong region. Mr. Chakma said peace in CHT could pave the way for “self-governance”.

The Rohingya issue and the security scenario in the Chittagong region are expected to feature in the bilateral talks that Ms. Hasina will hold on Tuesday. She however has come unaccompanied by her Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen who had created a controversy days before the visit by openly urging for support from India to ensure victory for the Awami League in the next general election in Bangladesh.