Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina to begin crucial India visit on September 5

Officials will discuss defence co-operation, regional stability and ways to resolve disputes over obtaining water from shared rivers

Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, has strengthened ties with India during her 13-year rule. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will visit India next week "to strengthen the multifaceted relationship" between the two countries, Indian foreign ministry said.

Ms Hasina's three-day visit, starting from September 5, comes as she battles growing anti-India sentiment at home.

New Delhi and Dhaka share strong historical and cultural ties and diplomatic relations have strengthened under Ms Hasina's 13-year rule.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, is received at the airport in Dhaka by Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina, at the start of a two-day state visit in June, 2015. EPA

The Bangladeshi leader will hold talks with her Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, and Foreign Minister Subramanyam Jaishankar.

She will also meet Indian President Droupadi Murmu, who took office in July, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said.

"In the recent years, both sides have sustained engagement, including at the highest level," the ministry said.

"The visit will further strengthen the multifaceted relationship between the two countries."

Ms Hasina is also likely to visit the holy city of Ajmer in western Rajasthan state, popular for the Sufi tomb of the revered Muslim saint, Moinuddin Chishti.

Her visit is being seen as crucial for Bangladesh’s domestic politics, as the country is gearing up for next year’s general elections.

During her visit, officials will discuss defence co-operation, regional stability and ways to resolve disputes about obtaining water from shared rivers.

The two countries share 54 rivers but one of the most significant is the Teesta, the water-sharing agreement of which has not been settled for decades.

The Teesta river is a tributary of the Brahmaputra and flows through the states of Sikkim and West Bengal before entering Bangladesh, where the livelihoods of 73 per cent of the population depend on the river.

The two nations proposed equitable sharing of the river water in 1983 but a deal could not be implemented. While India claims 55 per cent of the river water, Bangladesh wants a 50 per cent share.

India agreed to share about 38 per cent of Teesta water and retain 43 per cent in 2011 but the agreement hit a roadblock after the chief minister of the Indian state of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, strongly opposed it.

Villagers fish in the water after a barrage built on the river Teesta was opened for maintenance, on the outskirts of Siliguri, India. An agreement with Bangladesh on sharing the river's water has yet to be signed.  AFP

For Ms Hasina, solving the Teesta issue is seen as essential to swaying domestic politics amid increasing voices of dissent against her government’s pro-India slant.

With the partition of India in 1947, Bangladesh became the Pakistani province of East Bengal, and was later renamed East Pakistan.

Bangladesh won its independence after India fought a war with Pakistan in 1971.

New Delhi was the first to recognise the newly established state and became a key benefactor to the young nation, which won it huge public support.

But in recent years there has been a wave of anti-India sentiment in the country, as tens of thousands have taken to the streets against mistreatment of Muslims in India and interference by New Delhi in Bangladesh’s politics.

More than a dozen people were killed last March during street protests against Mr Modi’s visit to Bangladesh, as the country celebrated 50 years of independence.

Earlier this year, thousands rallied in the country against the derogatory comments made by members of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Nupur Sharma and her colleague Naveen Kumar Jindal, about the Prophet Mohammed.

Updated: September 02, 2022, 10:52 AM
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