Bangladesh Foreign Minister’s Maiden Visit to India: Advancing Bilateral Partnership to a New Level

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In response to an invitation from Dr. S. Jaishankar, the External Affairs Minister of India, H.E. Dr. Hasan Mahmud, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, embarked on an official visit to India from February 7th to 9th, 2024. This visit marks a significant milestone as it is Foreign Minister Mahmud’s inaugural official visit to India and his first bilateral visit to any country since assuming office as Bangladesh’s new Foreign Minister in January 2024.

The visit commenced with delegation-level discussions between Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar and Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. Hasan Mahmud on February 7th, followed by a dinner hosted in the latter’s honor. The discussions encompassed a comprehensive review of bilateral relations, spanning areas such as cross-border connectivity, economic and developmental collaboration, defense and security cooperation, energy, water resources, and people-to-people exchanges. Moreover, the two ministers deliberated on future engagement strategies aligned with the national development agendas of both nations, including India’s “Viksit Bharat 2047” and Bangladesh’s “Smart Bangladesh 2041” initiatives. Additionally, they exchanged viewpoints on regional and multilateral matters of mutual interest, reaffirming their commitment to bolster collaboration within the frameworks of BIMSTEC, IORA, and BBIN to promote sub-regional cooperation.

Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar underscored the significance of the discussions, emphasizing their role in fortifying the friendship between Bangladesh and India, thereby echoing the sentiment shared by his counterpart, Dr. Hasan Mahmud. Foreign Minister Mahmud also paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat.

He engaged in discussions with Indian National Security Advisor Shri Ajit Doval. Their discussions focused on seeking ways to strengthen regional cooperation to enhance security and stability, both within their immediate region and beyond. Emphasizing the significance of collaborative endeavors, they underscored the necessity of joint efforts in ensuring the security and stability of the region. By exploring avenues for cooperation, they aimed to address common challenges and mitigate potential threats, thereby fostering a safer and more stable environment for all stakeholders involved. This commitment to regional collaboration reflects their shared understanding of the interconnected nature of security challenges and the importance of collective action in addressing them effectively. Through constructive dialogue and cooperation, they sought to lay the groundwork for a more secure and prosperous future, not only for their respective nations but for the broader region as well.

During his visit, Foreign Minister Mahmud also met with the President of India, Droupadi Murmu, who lauded Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s commendable tenure as one of the longest-serving female leaders globally and commended Bangladesh for its remarkable socio-economic progress under her leadership. President Murmu expressed India’s deep appreciation for its strong bilateral relationship with Bangladesh, highlighting Bangladesh’s pivotal role as India’s largest development and trade partner. She also emphasized the importance of women’s empowerment in driving economic development, advocating for collaborative efforts between the two nations in this regard.

Foreign Minister Mahmud’s itinerary also includes meetings with Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar and a visit to the Indian Parliament, where he had the opportunity to witness the newly constructed Parliament Building. Additionally, he held discussions with Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal, highlighting the priorities of Bangladesh’s new government, particularly in addressing the prices of essential commodities. Minister Goyal reassured Bangladesh of India’s commitment to ensuring economic stability and pledged to facilitate the uninterrupted supply of essential commodities, underscoring the importance of enhancing trade and commerce relations between the two countries.

On February 8th, Foreign Minister Mahmud delivered keynote addresses at the prestigious think tank Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of South Asia, where he elaborated on the journey of Bangladesh-India relations over the past decade and outlined strategies to further strengthen bilateral ties.

The visit culminated with Foreign Minister Mahmud departing for Kolkata on February 9th, where he is slated to attend a civic reception at the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission, underscoring the significance of people-to-people exchanges in fostering bilateral relations.

In the broader context, the visit of Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister to India forms part of the ongoing high-level exchanges between the two countries, aimed at charting a forward-looking engagement strategy during Bangladesh’s new government term. It builds upon the momentum generated by the recent bilateral meeting between the two Foreign Ministers during the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Uganda, contributing to the deepening of the traditional, longstanding friendship and cooperation between Bangladesh and India.

This visit holds immense significance for the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and India, as it signifies a renewed commitment to strengthening ties and fostering collaboration across various sectors. The discussions held during the visit are expected to pave the way for enhanced cooperation in areas of mutual interest, including trade, security, and regional stability. Moreover, the visit serves as an opportunity for both countries to reaffirm their shared values and interests, as well as their commitment to promoting peace, stability, and prosperity in the region. By engaging in constructive dialogue and exploring avenues for cooperation, Bangladesh and India can address common challenges and seize opportunities for mutual growth and development. Furthermore, the visit underscores the importance of people-to-people exchanges in fostering understanding and building trust between the two nations. By promoting cultural exchange and collaboration at the grassroots level, Bangladesh and India can strengthen the foundation of their bilateral relationship and create lasting bonds of friendship and cooperation.

The official visit of Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister to India represents a significant step forward in the bilateral relations between the two countries. Through dialogue, cooperation, and mutual respect, Bangladesh and India can work together to address shared challenges and achieve common goals, thereby contributing to peace, stability, and prosperity in the region and beyond.

– Syed Raiyan Amir is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

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