Bangladesh and India are likely to sign a number of agreements and MoUs focusing on water management, defence, railway, science and technology; and information and broadcasting during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's India visit opening new "windows of cooperation" between the countries, officials said.

The prime minister leaves for New Delhi on Monday on a four-day state visit at the invitation of her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.

Issues related to security cooperation, investment, enhanced trade relations, power and energy sector cooperation, water sharing of common rivers, water resources management, border management, combating drug smuggling an human trafficking are likely to get priority during the talks between PM Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at the Hyderabad House, a senior official told UNB.

The visit is seen as significant amid the Ukraine crisis, global economic downturn and ongoing Covid-19 pandemic as the two South Asian neighbors seek enhanced cooperation to overcome the challenges, he said.

Hasina will visit India after three years since she last visited in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. The visit is significant for both Bangladesh and India, said the government of Bangladesh.

The visit will further strengthen the multifaceted relationship between the two countries based on strong historical and cultural ties and mutual trust and understanding, said the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

The prime minister will lead a high-level delegation which includes several ministers, advisers, state ministers, secretaries and senior officials.

Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Huq, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, Railways Minister Md. Nurul Islam Sujan, PM's economic affairs adviser Dr Mashiur Rahman, PM's Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid and State Minister for Water Resources Zaheed Farooque are among the delegation members,

Representatives from business bodies of Bangladesh will also accompany PM Hasina. Hasina is also scheduled to attend a business event organised by the Confederation of Indian Industries.

The prime minister will be formally received by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi while a ceremonial guard of honour will be accorded to her. She will pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat.

During her visit, PM Hasina will meet Indian President Droupadi Murmu and Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar apart from holding bilateral consultations with her Indian counterpart Modi at the Hyderabad House.

Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will call on PM Hasina, said the Ministry of External Affairs. Hasina is also likely to visit Ajmer.

The Bangladesh prime minister is also scheduled to attend a lunch to be hosted by her Indian counterpart.

She is expected to award the Mujib Scholarship, an initiative of the Bangladesh government, to the descendants of 200 Indian Armed Forces personnel who were martyred and critically injured during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971.

In recent years, both sides have sustained a high level of engagement, including at the highest level, MEA said.

Defence Cooperation

Last month, Bangladesh and India expressed commitment to elevating engagements between their armed forces and reviewed the progress of bilateral defence cooperation initiatives.

At the 4th Bangladesh-India Annual Defence Dialogue, both sides emphasised the need to work closely to implement the $500 million line of credit extended from India for defence items.

Principal Staff Officer of the Armed Forces Division of Bangladesh Lieutenant General Waker-Uz-Zaman and Indian Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar co-chaired the dialogue held last month.

Different aspects of defence industrial and capability-building cooperation came up for detailed discussions.

Both countries see "great potential" for cooperation in defence trade, co-development and joint production.

CEPA Negotiations

President of India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IBCCI) Abdul Matlub Ahmad has said the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), now under discussion, will be a win-win for both the countries.

"It'll benefit both sides," he told UNB, adding that such a framework agreement will help boost trade further. Bangladesh and India want to begin the required negotiations for signing the CEPA.

The issue will further be discussed during the state visit of PM Hasina as Bangladesh and India recognize the "immense potential" of bilateral economic and commercial ties.

During Modi's state visit to Bangladesh from March 26 to 27 last year, both sides discussed the prospects of entering into a CEPA.

To enhance trade between the two countries, both Prime Ministers underscored the need for removal of non-tariff barriers.

Matlub, also former president of the apex trade body FBCCI, said that both sides should talk about instant supply of essential commodities like wheat, sugar, cotton and onion to Bangladesh if Bangladesh faces any shortage.

"It can be reciprocal," he said, adding that Bangladesh can also extend such support if India faces any shortage of any essentials that is available in Bangladesh.

He said the private sector will have come forward in this regard but the governments of the two countries will create the ground for such cooperation.

Water Sharing

Bangladesh and India have finalised the text of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on interim water sharing of Kushiyara River ahead of PM Hasina's visit.

The two countries also welcomed finalisation of the design and location of water intake point on the Feni river to meet the drinking water needs of Sabroom town in Tripura as per the October 2019 Bangladesh-India MoU on this subject.

At the 38th ministerial level Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) meeting held in New Delhi on August 25, Bangladesh requested India in signing the MoU for withdrawal of water by Bangladesh and India from the common stretch of Kushiyara River at an early date. The Indian side assured that the issue is under their consideration.

Both sides agreed to conduct the feasibility study for optimum utilization of water received by Bangladesh under the provision of the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty, 1996.

India and Bangladesh share 54 rivers, of which seven rivers have been identified earlier for developing the framework of water sharing agreements on priority.

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