India stands ready to help Bangladesh in realising vision for a ‘stable, progressive and prosperous’ society, says Pranay Verma

Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud on Monday laid emphasis on expanding trade with greater connectivity with India as the two countries eye "greater momentum" in their partnership in the new term of the current government.

"We discussed connectivity issues with much importance. We also discussed trade expansion," he told reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after his meeting with Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Pranay Verma.

The foreign minister mentioned about the landmark cross-border trade settlement mechanism involving the rupee and bypassing the US dollar rolled out between the two countries recently.

"It has already begun, you know. We are looking into how it can be expanded, popularised and reached out to all. If it can be done, dependency by the two countries on dollars or other currencies will come down," said the foreign minister.

He said the initiative will be helpful for expansion of trade between the two countries. The two sides also discussed border haats.

Hasan Mahmud emphasized starting working on renewal of Ganges Water Sharing Treaty, which will expire in 2026.

He also emphasized resolving the pending issues with India amicably.

The foreign minister said they discussed the use of Mongla and Chattogram ports to carry goods to Northeast India and laid emphasis on further infrastructure development for its useful expansion.

Asked whether they discussed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), he said they did not discuss it in particular but talked about trade expansion opportunities.

Looking ahead, the foreign minister revealed plans for his first bilateral visit to India, accepting an invitation from his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar.

The planned visit aims to further strengthen diplomatic ties, with the exact date to be decided later. Additionally, Mahmud is set to embark on a multilateral tour of Uganda on January 17.

He will attend the Non-Aligned Movement Summit from January19 to 20 in Kampala, Uganda.

The meeting with the Indian High Commissioner marks Mahmud's first diplomatic engagement since assuming the office of foreign minister, highlighting his proactive approach in foreign affairs and regional cooperation.

Indian High Commissioner Pranay Verma said Bangladesh and India will achieve even greater momentum in their bilateral partnership in the new term of the government, contributing more robustly to national development.

"Overall, I think we are very hopeful and confident that in the new term of this government we will be able to achieve even greater momentum in our bilateral partnership and we will be able to make our development partnership contribute even more robustly to our national developments," he said.

Talking to reporters after his meeting with the foreign minister the high commissioner said they have always said India stands ready and will always be ready to help people of Bangladesh and to work with them in realising their vision for a "stable, progressive and prosperous" society guided by the longstanding friendship inspired by shared sacrifices made in the 1971 Liberation War.

Describing his meeting with the new foreign minister as a "very good one," the diplomat said he looks forward to closer cooperation in the coming days to take the "very positive agenda" forward for the two countries.

Though it was a courtesy meeting, the high commissioner said they had discussed wide ranging issues of the relationship. "I look forward to working closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and taking forward our relationship."

They discussed how over the last decade the relationship has acquired an "unprecedented momentum and growth" under the leadership of the two prime ministers and how it became people-centric relations, he said.

The two sides discussed some recent developments in the relationship and how the development partnership is benefitting people of the two countries and how the cooperation is making a positive impact with economic growth on both sides.

The high commissioner noted many positive developments in 2023 when the two countries saw major projects completed including energy pipeline, two railway projects, one power plant and launch of mechanism of trade in Indian rupees and digital payment system.

"It was a very wide ranging stock taking of our relationship, very positive agenda that we have today and exploring some of the things we would like to work for the future including climate change, digital economy, how we can support Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's vision of a Smart Bangladesh by 2041, and many other areas of mutual interest," he added.

Earlier, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar congratulated Hasan Mahmud on his appointment as foreign minister of Bangladesh.

"Look forward to working to further deepen the India-Bangladesh Maitri (friendship)," he said in a message shared on X (formerly known as Twitter).

First bilateral visit: Hasan Mahmud to visit Delhi on Feb 7, strengthening relations on agenda

Foreign Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud is scheduled to leave for New Delhi, India on February 7 - the first bilateral visit by the minister after his appointment - to further strengthen Bangladesh-India relations.

"It's likely to be a three-day visit," he told reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today (January 18, 2024), noting that the agenda of the visit is yet to be finalised.

The Foreign Minister said he will be visiting the country at the invitation of Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar.

Asked whether he will have a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the visit, Mahmud said, "It is too early to say."

Jaishankar, earlier, invited his Bangladesh counterpart Dr Hasan Mahmud to visit New Delhi at a mutually convenient time.

Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Pranay Verma extended the invitation on behalf of the Indian External Affairs Minister on Monday.

The Foreign Minister accepted the invitation and told him that he would visit Delhi soon.

Mahmud was scheduled to embark on a multilateral tour to Uganda last night. After two hours, he came to know that the flight will not depart due to fog and poor visibility. The Foreign Minister was scheduled to hold a meeting on the sidelines of NAM Summit today.

The meeting with the Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka marked Hasan Mahmud's first diplomatic engagement since assuming the office of foreign minister.

He noted the successful holding of the 12th parliamentary elections in Bangladesh on January 7, which was free, fair and participatory, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He also noted that international elections observers and media who visited Dhaka to cover elections expressed their satisfaction over the election process.

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