In the midst of tensions in India-Bangladesh ties over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to travel to Dhaka on 17 March at the invitation of his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina to attend the centenary celebrations of ‘Bangabandhu’ Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The authorities in Bangladesh are taking stringent security measures to ensure that Modi’s visit passes off smoothly in the wake of protests in parts of the country over the CAA and the recent communal riots in Delhi. The BNP, the main opposition party of Bangladesh, has also opposed Modi’s visit.
During the visit, Modi, who will be the keynote speaker at the centenary celebrations, is expected to dispel Dhaka’s concerns over the CAA and the NRC.
Ties between India and Bangladesh have come under intense strain ever since India enacted the CAA. Senior Bangladesh ministers have cancelled their visits to India in the last two months, apparently to convey to New Delhi Dhaka’s concern over the controversial act. Earlier this week, a parliamentary delegation, led by Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, cancelled its visit to India.
During Modi’s visit, the two countries are expected to ink a few agreements, including one on connectivity.
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, a former Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, was in Dhaka earlier this month to prepare the ground for Modi’s visit. Shringla sought to reassure Dhaka that the updation of the NRC would have “no implications” for the people of Bangladesh, saying the process was “entirely internal” to India.
But Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen did convey his concern indirectly by asking Shringla to ensure that India did not do anything which hurt the interests of Bangladesh.
However, sources were confident that the ties between the two countries would remain unaffected by “internal matters” of India. Drawing connectivity cooperation between the two countries, they pointed out that four of the pre-1965 cross-border rail links have been restored and the other two would be done this year. Three new rail links would come on stream by 2021, including the critical one between Agartala and Akhaura. The two countries were now rediscovering their shared waterways for trade and transport, including a new river terminal at Daikhowa.