Modi’s Visit for Bangladesh Independence Day Signals Closer Ties

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s presence at the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence marks closer ties between the South Asian neighbors amid China’s looming influence in the region.

Modi joined Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday during the two-day visit, his first overseas trip since the easing of pandemic restrictions in both nations. He lauded Bangladesh’s economic growth in the last few years and said the two countries face similar growth trajectories over the next 25 years.

“We’re facing similar opportunities in trade and growth and similar threats in the form of terrorism,” he said at the event that also marked the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s founder and Sheikh Hasina’s father.

Modi’s visit signals the warming of ties since relations nosedived in 2019 after India passed a controversial law that fast-tracks Indian citizenship for non-Muslims from three neighboring nations including Bangladesh. Bilateral visits were canceled after nationwide protests erupted in India against the move.

Lingering effects remain as some protests broke out against the Indian prime minister’s visit. Police had to use teargas and water cannons to break up a demonstration after Friday prayers, television footage showed.

Modi’s Visit for Bangladesh Independence Day Signals Closer Ties

The two nations have tried to restore relations since then. Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla visited Bangladesh twice in 2020. The second visit in August came amid rising border tensions with China, which has committed $40 billion in investments in Bangladesh.

Trade, Vaccines

India has promised more vaccine supplies to Bangladesh. The announcement comes amid India slowing its vaccine exports as it seeks to control rapidly rising infections at home. On Friday, the country added more than 59,000 new infections taking it total to nearly 11.9 million cases, trailing behind only the U.S. and Brazil.

Despite the slowing down of shipments of vaccines, New Delhi will deliver 1.2 million doses of Covid-19 inoculations to Dhaka during Modi’s visit, Indian officials have said, adding the decision to send those shots was taken before India decided to accelerate domestic immunizations.

“I appreciate the fact that Prime Minister Modi has sent vaccines to Bangladesh and other neighboring nations,” Hasina said. “Over the past few years, India’s cooperation has deepened in trade and business, connectivity and power and energy.”

South Asia’s two biggest economies are expected to sign agreements relating to trade, health, railway connectivity, border development and startups.

Annual trade between India and Bangladesh -- its biggest trading partner in South Asia -- stood at $9.46 billion in the fiscal year ended March 2020, Indian government data shows.

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