Prime Minister Narendra Modi has flagged off his first foreign tour since India declared the Covid-19 lockdown a year ago. He will be in Bangladesh today and tomorrow to attend the celebration of that country’s 50th year of liberation from Pakistan and the centenary year of its founder Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, Premier Sheikh Hasina’s father. The two countries are also celebrating 50 years of the establishment of diplomatic ties.
“I am happy that my first foreign visit after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic will be to our friendly neighbouring country, with which India shares deep cultural, linguistic and people-to-people ties,” read his departure statement, released yesterday.
“My visit will not only be an occasion to convey appreciation for Bangladesh’s remarkable economic and developmental strides under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visionary leadership, but also to commit India’s abiding support for these achievements,” he said in the statement.
He had also tweeted yesterday saying that Bangladesh is an important pillar of India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy. Known as East Pakistan till 1971, Bangladesh was formed after India and Pakistan fought a war.
Recalling the nation’s founder, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, in a write-up for Bangladeshi newspaper The Daily Star, the Prime Minister wrote that had the late leader not been assassinated in 1975, Bangladesh and the region would have evolved along a very different trajectory.
“For instance, India and Bangladesh were able to finally overcome the complications of history through the 2015 Land Boundary Agreement…But had Bangabandhu been at the helm longer, this achievement may have come much earlier,” PM Modi wrote in the article.
“We could have built a closely integrated economic region, with deeply interlinked value-chains spanning food processing to light industry, electronics and technology products to advanced materials,” he further wrote, recommitting himself to the “vision set out by Bangabandhu”.
Besides taking part in a wide range of programmes aimed at furthering cooperation between the two countries, PM Modi is also set to offer prayers at the Jashoreshwari Kali Temple. Notably, the tour comes amid the run-up to the West Bengal and Assam Assembly polls. While the Prime Minister’s BJP is looking forward to replacing the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress regime in Kolkata, it is fighting to retain power in Guwahati.
Both states are likely to follow the developments in Bangladesh with keen interest over the next two days for several reasons, including matters like illegal immigration and culture.