Bangladesh, India discuss means to absorb Ukraine war shock on economy

FE ONLINE REPORT | Saturday, 28 May 2022

Bangladesh and India had extensive discussions on strategies to absorb the shock of the Ukraine war, especially on the supply of food commodities and energy when Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen met Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishangkar in Guwahati. 

Commenting on the meeting Dr Momen told the newsmen on Saturday that the meeting took place on the previous night as both the ministers were in the same hotel to take part in an international conference. 

As the war is causing pain to the supply chain both of them agreed to cooperate with each other to address the challenges, the minister informed. 

India is procuring Russian oil at a reduced price but Bangladesh is not doing that due to the sanction issue, Dr Momen mentioned in response to a question.

He said India has assured Bangladesh to continue wheat exports to Bangladesh. 

The minister said he had raised the issue of getting back bank swindler PK Halder, who was recently arrested in India. 

The Indian foreign minister said Mr Halder will be sent back to Bangladesh but he did not say when, Dr Momen added. 

 But the Indian minister sounded very sincere in handing Mr Halder, he added. 

During his meeting with Mr Jaishangkar, both of them had agreed to defer the Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) meeting between the two countries which was scheduled to be held on Monday in Delhi. 

The meeting was deferred to June 18 and 19, said the minister adding that meeting between rail ministers of the two countries and the JRC should be held before the JCC. 

We requested him to hold the Joint River Commission meeting before the JCC meeting and he said he would talk to the concerned officials regarding this. 

It has been 12 years since the last JRC was held, he pointed out. 

Replying to a question he said he raised the issue of the Teesta water-sharing deal, and the Indian side reiterated the same explanation saying that it could not be materialized due to the opposition of the West Bengal state government. 

Meanwhile, addressing the Asian Confluence River Conclave 2002 titled Natural Allie’s in Development and Interdependence (NADI), both the foreign ministers stressed the need for enhancing connectivity among the countries standing on the basin of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and the Mekong. 

Bangladesh's foreign minister told the conclave that riverine transport between Bangladesh and India contributed to the growth of both countries.

He narrated the improvement in the cross border riverine and other modes of transport under transit provided to India by Bangladesh. 

He also urged the regional countries to take a united and comprehensive river basin management programmes to protect the river systems. 

Dr Momen said such a United effort can help the impact of siltation, erosion and loss of navigability of regional rivers.

He also urged the regional countries especially India and ASEAN countries to help speed up the repatriation of one million Rohingyas from Bangladesh to their homeland in Myanmar.

He argued that due to the long delay in repatriation Rohingyas started to be involved in various crimes posing threat to regional security. 

As Bangladesh helped India in rooting out terrorism from the northeastern states, India should similarly take measures for quick repatriation of Rohingyas to make the region free of terrorism, the minister pointed out. 

Dr Momen said Bangladesh has now the right features to become a bridge between South Asia and South-East Asia.

He also informed that Bangladesh requested India to link its national waterways with the river system of Bangladesh to tap the real potential of river communications. 

S Jaishangkar in his speech highlighted the importance of connecting the North Eastern region of India with the South East Asian countries.

He narrated the progress made in enhancing connectivity with Bangladesh in recent times. 

Jaishangkar also noted that apart from the road, transport and river communication strengthening connectivity in the power and IT sectors is also crucial for growth. 

The broadband connectivity from Bangladesh is helping the Indian state of Tripura and the power connectivity from India is helping Bangladesh, he said. 

Connectivity can boost the growth immensely if the regional countries ‘can get the politics and economics right’ the Indian foreign minister observed. 

In his opening address, Chief Minister of Assam Himanta Biswas Sharma lauded Bangladesh for providing access to his state to seaports. He also mentioned that Bangladesh played a crucial role in curbing insurgence from his state which was a game-changer for his state in taking the drive for socio-economic development of the country. 

The event was organised by the Indian think tank Asian Confluence in collaboration with the external affairs ministry of India, and the government of Assam. 

Experts, parliament members, bureaucrats and senior diplomats of the South East and South Asian region took part in the discussions. 

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