NEW DELHI: India and Bangladesh on Saturday opened a new chapter in their ties as they settled the 41-year-old boundary dispute even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced of a fresh line of credit of $2 billion to the neighbouring country.
Modi noted that the Indian Parliament’s approval of land boundary pact “reflects the consensus in India on relations with Bangladesh”.
Incidentally, one of the gifts handed over by him to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was a copy of the DVD and transcript of the debate in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha, which had been highly emotional.
The other gifts were the original steering wheel of INS Vikrant and a hand-embroidered tapestry showing the ‘kalpavriksh’ and ‘Kamadhenu’.
“I am confident that we both have the political will and mutual confidence to further improve border management and coordination to prevent illegal activities, trafficking and movements,” he added.
On security cooperation, both countries signed three agreements on human trafficking, fake Indian currency and maritime safety. In all, 22 pacts were inked on Saturday.
Modi pointed out that along with the land boundary, the maritime boundary had also been settled following a judgment last year. “So, we stand at a moment of huge opportunity in our relationship. The Prime Minister and I recognise that,” he said.
India also offered a new line of credit of $2 billion to Bangladesh. This is in addition to the $1 billion soft loan India had extended during the visit of Hasina to New Delhi in 2010. Of this, $200 million was subsequently converted into a grant.
Modi said he was “conscious of the huge trade imbalance”, and had “assured the Prime Minister that we will do everything we can to bridge the deficit”.
“Indian investments in Bangladesh will help. I will also try to make trade smoother and easier, including at the border. The agreement on standards and testing is a step in that direction,” he said.
India has also promised to increase power supply to Bangladesh from 500 MW to 1,100 MW within two years. While there was no-show on a pact on Teesta as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had said before the visit, Modi said that rivers “should nurture our relationship, not become a source of discord. Water sharing is, above all, a human issue.”