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9 deals on defence during PM’s visit

Two agreements and seven memorandums of understanding on defence cooperation would figure prominently among more than 40 deals expected to be signed between Bangladesh and India during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Delhi visit next month.

India is likely to commit a new line of credit of around $4 billion for 20 projects in Bangladesh, say sources at the ministries concerned.

Hasina is all set to embark on a four-day visit from April 7. Delhi’s readiness to sign a defence pact with Dhaka remains the centrepiece of all discussions in the run-up to her first state visit to India in seven years.

The two agreements and seven MoUs that are on the cards fall under the defence ministry. They include a “Defence Cooperation Agreement”, a technical agreement between the Bangladesh Navy and the Indian Navy, and seven MoUs on issues ranging from enhancing cooperation in the field of “National Security and Strategic Studies” to research.

Though there has been no official disclosure yet on the defence pact, it is being widely reported that India is eager for a comprehensive deal with Bangladesh on defence, while the latter is preferring a MoU to an agreement.
In the field of science and technology, two agreements, one MoU and an instrument for exchange of technical information are likely to be signed. They include an agreement on peaceful use of nuclear energy, and three other deals regarding implementation of the country’s first nuclear power project at Rooppur involving Russia.

In the shipping sector, seven agreements, MoUs, and standard operational procedures (SoP) are on the cards. Delhi is eager to use both Chittagong and Mongla ports and sign SoPs with Dhaka to that end. Either an agreement or a MoU is likely to be signed for building a coal and container terminal at Payra Port.

One agreement and two MoUs are likely to be signed in the energy sector. Dhaka is working on a MoU between Bangladesh, India and Bhutan for joint investment in a 1,124-megawatt hydro power project in Bhutan.

Besides, Indian credit is expected for setting up a pipeline to carry petroleum products from India to Bangladesh.

Two agreements and a MoU are also on the cards on peaceful use of outer space, and cooperation in the area of geostationary communications satellites.

Fresh line of credit is expected from India for development of economic zones, shipping, ports and road infrastructure, and also for river restoration in Bangladesh.

Almost a fourth of the expected $4-billion credit from India would be spent on infrastructure development of Rooppur Nuclear Power Project.

India would also provide credit for upgrading 245km roads — Benapole-Jessore-Narail-Bhanga (135 km), Ramgarh-Baruerhat (35 km) and Maynamati-Brahmanbaria-Sarail (75 km) –, keeping in mind transit and transshipment facilities and use of Chittagong and Mongla ports, according to sources at the ministries concerned.

Earlier, Delhi committed $3 billion in concessional credit to Dhaka under the 1st and 2nd lines of credit. A portion of the 1st line of credit amounting to $200 million was used as seed money for the Padma Bridge Project.

The interest rate of the lines of credit is one percent, which is quite low in some respects. But it comes with conditions such as use of Indian raw materials and limited competitiveness in the bidding process.

In the proposed 3rd line of credit, India is willing to spend money on economic zones, specially the ones in Bangladesh where Indian businesspeople would invest. They include Indian Special Economic Zones in Mirsharai, Pyara and Moheshkhali. In response to Delhi’s demand for over 1,000 acres of land for the Indian SEZ in Mirsharai, Dhaka approved 500 acres last week.

This time, the much-talked-about Teesta water-sharing treaty is not on the agenda. However, nearly $200 million of the expected fresh line of credit from India would go to Buriganga River Restoration Project.

Source: Daily Star, Dhaka, Bangladesh

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