Fair Weekly Brief on International Affairs

Fair Weekly Brief on International Affairs

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Visit to India, April 7-10, 2017

    • Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to visit India during April 7-10, 2017, a visit originally slated for December 2016. She will meet Indian PM NarendraModi on April 8. Hasina visited India in January 2010 on bilateral official visit while Modi visited Bangladesh once in June 2015. Recent progresses in Indo-Bangla relations include India’s ratification of 1974 border pact during Modi’s Dhaka trip in 2015.


    • Around 30 to 35 primary and final agreements are intended to be signed during the visit. India might extend a third line of credit (LOC) worth around USD 4 billion to Bangladesh to support a number of development projects. The first (2010) and second (2016) LOCs were USD 1 billion and USD 2 billion respectively. Disbursement and implementation of the LOC projectshave been slow. In October 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Bangladesh and pledged USD 24 billion line of credit.


    • Security would be a top priority in the discussions. Bangladesh has supported India in addressing its major security concerns in the Northeastern states of India. While India wanted to clinch a 25-years bilateral defense cooperation deal, Bangladesh prefers a MoU for defense equipment purchase, disaster response and management, and so on for which India would offer a USD 500m credit.


    • Under the ‘Make in India’ campaign of the Modi government, India has formulated a “Strategy for Defense Exports” and increased defense exports to $330 million in 2015-16,seeking to raise it further to USD 2 billion in a few years. In September 2016, India extended USD 500 million line of credit to Vietnam for defense deals under a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’. The focus of these two Indian Ocean nations is on naval defense technology. Security cooperation in Bay of Bengal is a priority for India. India has been exporting naval defense systems to Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and other littoral states. For its own navy, India has been building six new nuclear-powered submarines beyond the two it already owns. The discussion on the defense deal comes against Bangladesh’s recent purchase of two refurbished Chinese submarines for USD 203 million which have been delivered on November 14, 2016. India Defense Minister Manohar Parikkar flew in to Dhaka on November 30 to hold talks.


    • Connectivity is another major area. India also would seek a deal to use Chittagong and Mongla portsbased on payment of fees and levies.In 2016, Bangladesh allowed transit through inland waterways to India.


    • The impasse of the Indian side over Teesta water-sharing bedevils the friendly relations ties. Teesta is one of the 54binational rivers shared by India and Bangladesh.Originating in Sikkim and flowing through West Bengal into Bangladesh, Teesta’s flows have been controlled byGozaldoba Barrage in Jalpaiguri.In 2011, the two countries agreed on water sharing on a 50:50 basis. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee thwarted the water-sharing deal in 2011, but promised Bangladesh about ‘breakthrough’ on the issue during her Dhaka visit in 2015. On February 20, 2017, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar demanded demolition of Farakka Barrage over Ganges-Padma river located in West Bengal. Indian government is implementing the river linking project, as ruled by Indian High Court on.


    • In 2014, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), a United Nations tribunal, awarded Bangladesh 19,467 sq. km of 25,602 sq. km sea area of Bay of Bengal against India. The two countries have resolved longstanding issues of enclaves by signing a Land Boundary Agreement in 2015. However, the border continues to vex the bilateral relations. In last four years, according to the Home Ministry of Bangladesh, 146 Bangladeshis were killed in the Indo-Bangladesh border by BSF and civilians.


    • Cooperation in the energy sector between the two countries is going strong. Reliance Power has been awarded contracts to build a 750 MW LNG-based combined-cycle power plant in Meghnaghat, Narayanganj and a FSRU Terminal at Maheshkhali, Cox’s Bazar.This is a USD 1.3 billion investment, the largest FDI deal for Bangladesh so far. PetroBangla sought US$1.4 billion from the GOB annually as it is going to purchase 390 MMCFD LNG daily from Reliance Power. Adani Group intends to build transmission lines to supply power from two 660 MW plantsto be set up in Jharkhand, India.


    • Bangladesh imports 600MW electricity from India, more than the imports by Nepal and Myanmar. India imports significant amount of power from Bhutan. Bangladesh, India, and Bhutan are considering cooperationon 1125-MW Dorjilung hydropower project in Bhutan. Bangladesh wants to invest USD 1 billion in the project.


    • Bilateral Trade has grown, but the trade deficit for Bangladesh – quoted at USD 5.579 billion – persists. Indian exports include cotton, sugar, cereals, vehicles and accessories, while Bangladesh exports textile fibres, paper yarn, fish, apparel, mineral fuels, salt, cement, etc. In January 2017, India imposed anti-dumping duties on Jute goods from Bangladesh and Nepal. In 2015-16, Bangladeshi export of jute and jute products to India grew 150%: from USD 104.51 million to USD 260.74 million.


    • The Rampal Power Plant has become the other most controversial issue in Indo-Bangla relations. The proposed 1,320 MW coal-based power plant in Rampal is implemented by Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (BIFPC) based on a 2012 agreement between Bangladesh’s Power Development Board (PDB) and India’s National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC). The plant will be built by Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) with a budget of $1.68 billion project to be shared equally by PDB and NTPC. Rampal plant is situated just 65 kilometers fromSundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest which has been designated a world heritage site in 1999. In March 2016, the UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre and IUCN conducted a mission to the site. In their report released in October 2016, the mission called for stopping the project due to four key risks posed by it to Sundarbans: “pollution from coal ash by air, pollution from wastewater and waste ash, increased shipping and dredging, and the cumulative impact of industrial and related development infrastructure.” In 2015, the French banks CréditAgricole, BNP Paribas, and SociétéGéneralestated that they would not invest in the project, and the 70% loan funding of the project is advanced by the EXIM Bank of India. The National Committee to Protect Sundarbans, the Democratic Left Alliance (Gonotantrik Bam Morcha) and the Oil-Gas-Mineral Resources-Power-and Port Protection National Committee of Bangladesh have protested the proposed plant over the last few years. Land-filling in the project site has been complete and preparatory activities for the construction of the power plant are going on. Construction is expected to be completed by 2019-20. Coal India Limited (CIL) has been in consultation with the GOB on supplying fuel for the plant.


  • Hasina will visit Ajmer Sharif. 71 years ago, in April 1946, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as a young political activist visited Ajmer.