India, Bangladesh sign 7 pacts, including on restoration of rail links, at virtual summit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Thursday held a virtual summit during which they reviewed bilateral ties.

Both prime ministers expressed satisfaction over the current state of bilateral relations based on shared bonds of history, culture, language, and other unique commonalities that characterise the partnership. They emphasised that relations between Bangladesh and India are based on fraternal ties and reflective of an all-encompassing partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust and understanding that transcends a strategic partnership. 
They paid solemn tribute to the martyrs of the Liberation War of Bangladesh, the Muktijoddhas and the Indian soldiers, for their great sacrifices in 1971. They vowed to uphold and protect the cherished values of democracy and equality in line with the aspirations of the people of the two friendly countries.
The two leaders expressed satisfaction on the progress of various decisions taken during the official visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Delhi in October 2019. Both sides also recalled the successful holding of the Sixth Meeting of the Joint Consultative Commission held in September 2020.
Speaking at the summit, PM Modi described Bangladesh as a significant pillar of India’s 'Neighbourhood First' policy. The PM noted that his government has strived to improve relations with Bangladesh.
“To strengthen relations with Bangladesh has been a priority for me since the first day,” Modi said.
“This year has been full of challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, there has been good cooperation between our countries in the sphere of working with health professions, COVID-19 vaccine etc,” he noted.
“I must commend you for the manner in which your government has countered COVID-19,” the Indian PM added, appreciating Bangladesh government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
On her part, PM Hasina, during the summit, described India as a true friend of Bangladesh. She also paid homage to the soldiers martyred during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.
“I pay deep homage to the 3 million martyrs who laid their lives. I pay tribute to the members of the Indian armed forces martyred in the 1971 war. I pay my gratitude to the Government and people of India who extended wholehearted support for the cause of our liberation,” the Bangladeshi PM said.
She noted that Bangladesh was looking forward to PM Modi’s visit to the country next year.
“Bangladesh is on the verge of celebrating 50 years as an independent nation. Your (PM Modi) visit to Dhaka on 26th March 2021 will be the crowning glory of our joint commemoration of Bangladesh's Liberation War of 1971,” Hasina said.
An official announcement said that India and Bangladesh have signed seven agreements in the areas of connectivity, hydrocarbons, agriculture, textiles and community development, during the summit.
During the summit, the two leaders jointly inaugurated the Chilahati-Haldibari rail link between India and Bangladesh.
The Chilahati-Haldibari rail link is a trans-border railway line and it has been restored after 55 years. It is the fifth pre-1965 railway link between the two countries that has been made operational again.
The Chilahati-Haldibari rail link will help improve connectivity between Bangladesh and Indian states of Assam and West Bengal. The rail link was originally part of the broad gauge main route that connected Kolkata and Siliguri.
The restored trans-border rail link will initially facilitate movement of goods cargo. Later, passenger movement will also begin on the route after the necessary infrastructure is put in place on both sides of the border.
The two leaders also ointly released a commemorative stamp on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to commemorate the birth N also inaugurated the Bangabandhu-Bapu Digital Exhibition to celebrate the life and legacies of the iconic leaders.
PM Modi expressed happiness about getting the opportunity to release a digital exhibition on Mahatma Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman.
“It is a matter of pride for me… they will continue to inspire our youths,” Modi told Hasina.
In a media briefing on India-Bangladesh summit in the evening, Smita Pant, joint secretary, Bangladesh-Myanmar in the ministry of external affairs, said the two leaders also discussed the sharing of waters of Teesta and other rivers and issues related to fisheries.
PM Modi has accepted PM Sheikh Hasina's invitation to visit Bangladesh on 26 March 2021.