India and Bangladesh today signed six MoUs, including one for the construction of a 129.5 km-long oil pipeline between Siliguri and Parbatipur, and discussed the Teesta water sharing issue as well as the Rohingya refugee crisis. Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and his Bangladeshi counterpart Md Shahidul Haque discussed many bilateral and international issues during delegation-level talks. "Six MoUs including India-Bangladesh Friendship pipeline between Siliguri & Parbatipur, agreement between Department of Atomic Energy, India and Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, were signed during the visit," the Indian High Commission in Dhaka tweeted.
"This is part of our endeavour to undertake projects in Bangladesh in various socio-economic sectors, including education, culture, health, community welfare, road infrastructure etc, for which we are providing 16 billion taka under grant financing," the Indian foreign secretary said. The MoU on oil pipeline is aimed at pumping diesel from India to Bangladesh with a capacity of 1 million tonnes per annum. "The MoU focuses on deepening bilateral cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector and the mutual benefits for both sides that would accrue from the proposed construction of approximate 129.5 km long oil pipeline from the Siliguri Marketing Terminal of the Numaligarah Refinery Ltd (NRL) in India to the Parbaripur depot of the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC)," the brief description of the MoU read.
The other MoUs are on cooperation between Prasar Bharati and Bangladesh Betar, installation of an Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) Urdu Chair in Dhaka University, Addendum to the GCNEP-BAEC Interagency Agreement, grant projects to set up language labs in 500 schools in Bangladesh and upgrade different roads in Rangpur city. An addendum was signed relating to Inter-Agency agreement between Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP) of India's atomic energy department and Bangladesh's atomic energy commission. Gokhale said Delhi remained a "committed development partner" of Dhaka and has extended lines of credit of over USD 8 billion to Bangladesh in the last seven years.
"This is the largest amount of credit India has ever committed to any single country....We are confident that this credit will be useful to Bangladesh as it pursues its developmental priorities," he said. Gokhale also cited Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks that Bangladesh and India are not just "pass pass" (close to each other) but also "saath saath" (together). India also extended full support to Bangladesh's efforts for resolving the Rohingya crisis, including the early repatriation of the displaced people to Myanmar. "India has been fully supportive of the efforts being made to resolve the crisis, including early repatriation of the displaced people," Gokhale said in a statement following a meeting with his Bangladesh counterpart M Shahidul Haque on the second day of his three-day Dhaka tour.
Gokhale said India sent relief materials for 300,000 Rohingyas in September last year under 'Operation Insaniyat' to support Bangladesh in its humanitarian efforts. He also announced New Delhi's plans for the second phase of such assistance. He said the assistance included field hospitals with all facilities to extend women and child healthcare while the relief supplies planned for the second phase included milk powder, baby food, dried fish, cooking stoves and cooking fuel, raincoats and gumboots. "On the Myanmar side, we are providing socio-economic support under our Rakhine State Development Programme including construction of pre-fabricated housing in order to meet the needs of the returning people," he added.
Bangladesh appreciated the Indian gesture on the issue. "We are very happy the way our friend from India is looking at this [Rohingya] issue, looking to peacefully resolve the issue," Haque said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had recently asked India to put pressures on Myanmar for repatriation of over a million of Rohingyas fearing their prolonged stay in Bangladesh could create militancy related security risks.
Haque said the two discussed all aspects of the relations between the two nations, including the pending Teesta water sharing issue, and was "delighted" regarding the outcome. Gokhale praised the progress in bilateral relations and said: "We assure you we are working hard internally to resolve the issue", B D News reported. He said Delhi is "aware" of the few outstanding issues in the relations. The Indian foreign secretary arrived in Dhaka yesterday, his first visit after assuming the office on January 29. Before the bilateral meeting with his counerpart, Gokhale called on Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali.