DHAKA: An agreement signed with Bangladesh on Saturday allowing Indian cargo vessels to use the Chittagong and Mongla ports has huge strategic implications.
Chittagong port has been developed by China and is part of its famed “string of pearls”. Ostensibly a commercial port, there has been a belief that China could use it for strategic purposes, particularly since Beijing is also believed to be developing a deep sea port off the island of Sonadia at Cox’s Bazar. For India to gain access to use the port is a big achievement both in economic terms, and also as an expression of greater trust with Bangladesh.
Modi announced a $2billion line of credit for Bangladesh to use for infrastructure, power, health and education projects. Making connectivity a big part in Saturday’s agreements, Modi also announced “Power supply from India to Bangladesh will grow from 500 MW to 1,100 MW within two years.” Modi, Hasina and Mamata flagged off two bus services that would connect northeastern states to Kolkata via Dhaka. Bangladesh would in turn be able to use Indian territory to access markets in Nepal and Bhutan.
Keeping the Teesta deal alive, Modi indicated a similar political process would be employed for that deal as well. “Our rivers should nurture our relationship, not become a source of discord. Water sharing is, above all, a human issue. It affects life and livelihood on both sides of the border. We have shown political resolve and mutual goodwill with the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA). I am confident that with the support of state governments in India, we can reach a fair solution on Teesta and Feni Rivers. We should also work together to renew and clean our rivers,” he said. This was the only time Teesta was mentioned publicly, though sources said it figured in private discussions.
India will open two new consulates in Sylhet and Khulna in Bangladesh, while Guwahati will see a new Bangladesh consulate in the coming months.
Modi referred to the growing security cooperation between Bangladesh and India, as coast guards of both countries signed an MoU, and both countries signed deals to combat human trafficking, smuggling and circulation of fake currency notes. Bangladesh has been a major transit point for FICN, and India hopes to plug this route in future.
For the first time, a neighbouring country will have a specially designated economic zone only for Indian companies. Signing an agreement to allow an India-specific SEZ would encourage Indian investment and give both countries a way to address the yawning trade deficit, explained foreign secretary S Jaishankar.
Source: Times of India