Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised during his talks with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina that the pending bilateral issues, including the Teesta water-sharing treaty, would be taken up at the official level to find an early solution, A.K. Abdul Momen, the foreign minister of Bangladesh, said on Friday.
“The two leaders had a meeting in a cordial atmosphere during which they discussed several key bilateral issues...,” Momen told a news briefing after Hasina met Modi.
“Prime Minister Modi spoke about the necessity for official-level discussions to find early solutions to the bilateral pending issues, including the Teesta water-sharing issue,” Momen added.
Hasina arrived in New Delhi on Friday afternoon to attend the G20 Summit as a guest. On the sidelines of the summit, the two Premiers met for over an hour and a half, during which they had a one-to-one meeting for about half an hour.
The Bangladesh side had earlier indicated that they would take up the Teesta issue — pending since 2011 because of resistance from Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee — during the bilateral between the two leaders.
That Modi has mentioned the need to take up the pending issues at the level of officials is good news for Hasina, who faces a general election in three to four months, as it will send out a message to her electorate that she had taken the issue up with her Indian counterpart. It, however, remains to be seen whether the issue can be resolved through discussions at the level of officials.
Teesta will remain a point of discussion on Saturday as well because Hasina is likely to meet Mamata during the G20 official dinner hosted by President Droupadi Murmu. “Although one cannot have any structured discussion during a dinner, you can’t rule out the possibility of our PM talking about Teesta with the Bengal chief minister.... Let’s see what happens,” a source in Bangladesh said.
No official communication on the bilateral meeting was available from the Indian side, but the Bangladeshi side was upbeat with Modi’s message on his official X (formerly Twitter) handle.
“Had productive deliberations with PM Sheikh Hasina. The progress in India-Bangladesh relations in the last 9 years has been very gladdening,” Modi wrote. “Our talks covered areas like connectivity, commercial linkage and more,” he added.
During the meeting, the two countries signed three memorandums of understanding, covering cooperation on agriculture research and education and the extension of a cultural exchange programme from 2023 to 2025. The third, relating to Bangladesh Bank and the National Payments Corporation of India, was about network connectivity to facilitate transactions in rupees and Bangladeshi takas between the two countries.
Briefing the media after the meeting, Momen said Modi had appreciated Bangladesh’s support in maintaining peace in India’s northeast. “Regional peace and stability were discussed between the two PMs,” said Momen.
When reporters asked him whether the two leaders had discussed anything about the upcoming Bangladesh polls, a contentious subject since the US issued a new set of visa norms for Bangladeshi nationals to ensure free and fair elections, Momen said: “Election in Bangladesh was not discussed in front of the delegates.... I am not aware whether the two leaders discussed it during their one-to-one meeting.”
At a time speculation is rife in Bangladesh over whether India would toe the US line or firmly stand behind Hasina to ensure a fourth consecutive term for her as Prime Minister, her trip to Delhi is being closely observed by the diplomatic circles in Dhaka.
“The G20 outing is fantastic optics for her just ahead of the elections.... We had the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov here in Dhaka yesterday (Thursday), French President Emmanuel Macron will be in the capital on his way back to France after the G20 summit. The visibility of Bangladesh and our Prime Minister is indeed an image booster for the incumbent government,” a source in Dhaka said.