Thursday, November 23, 2017

Sushma Swaraj wants to visit Bangladesh as early as possible

  • Nurul Islam Hasib, Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2017-08-13 22:29:21 BdST

File Photo: Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj giving a speech on India - Bangladesh relations at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in Dhaka on June 25, 2014. File Photo: asaduzzaman pramanik/

India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who recovered from her kidney ailments and recently attended BIMSTEC meeting in Nepal, wants to visit Bangladesh “as early as possible”.

“We did not fix the date yet. Next month may be difficult due to UN General Assembly, but she wants to come to Bangladesh as early as possible as she recovered and already visited a country,” an Indian diplomat told on Sunday while talking on India-Bangladesh relations.

The visit would be for the ‘Joint Consultative Commission’ meeting with his Bangladesh counterpart AH Mahmood Ali. In such meetings, both sides take stocks of their ongoing cooperation and give future directions.

The next meeting would be the first of its kind after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s India visit in April when both sides embarked on a new era of cooperation.

India has rolled out a fresh $5-billion line of credit, implementation of those projects are under way.

The Indian diplomat who talked to on condition of anonymity said they were trying to maintain “maximum transparency” in each step of implementation.

During the visit, India signed 36 agreements and MoUs with Bangladesh, the highest number during a visit by the head of the government.

Together with the 22 agreements signed during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 60 documents have been signed in two years, which both Bangladesh and India consider as “big achievements”.

“We’ll implement those in full transparency. Both the governments will know what is happening”.

The two countries are also giving importance on people-to-people contacts.

The process of getting visas has been eased resulting in huge number of Bangladeshis visiting India now.

“In the last six months, about 0.7 million visas have been issued, and we think this year the total number will be 1.4 million,” the diplomat said, “the figure was less than 1 million last year”.

“The actual visit would be much higher because we are issuing multiple entries for one year or six months for a long time”.

Tourist visa applicants in Chittagong region can submit applications even without mentioning travel dates or providing travel tickets with their applications.

“We’ll introduce this system in Rajshahi also from September. Gradually we’ll implement it across Bangladesh. We are trying to make the visa process as easier as possible,” the diplomat said.

“In fact, we have no reservation to give Bangladeshis on-arrival visa in principle. But our ports are not prepared yet to deal such huge number of people on arrival”.

India also supplies 660MW electricity to Bangladesh. Both sides are also working on the joint project such as coal-based Rampal power plant to generate more electricity for power-starved Bangladesh.

India’s Adani group is also planning to set up a coal-fired power plant in the Indian state of Jharkhand to supply electricity to Bangladesh.

“We are ready to do whatever Bangladesh needs,” the diplomat said.