Shringla meets PM; Delhi proposes air bubble arrangement

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Newsnow Desk: Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Tuesday night met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and discussed ways of strengthening cooperation between the two countries.

“Yes, the meeting was held,” an Indian government official told UNB adding there has been commitment from both sides to take forward the relations between the two countries. The two sides also discussed deeper cooperation in post-COVID-19 era and smooth economic recovery.

Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das at a media briefing with a small group of reporters at Hotel Sonargaon said Shringla is visiting Dhaka to convey a message that Bangladesh and India have deep relations and reiterated that they will continue to be a development partner of Bangladesh.

“India has special and close relations with Bangladesh. Therefore, the Foreign Secretary has come to meet the Prime Minister with this message even during this pandemic,” she said.

India has proposed to establish bilateral air bubble arrangement with Bangladesh amid COVID-19 like other countries including France and Germany, said a diplomatic source.

India is negotiating with a number of countries to establish separate bilateral air bubble arrangements for international flight operations.

Under a bilateral air bubble pact, airlines of both the countries can operate international flights with certain restrictions.

Virtual JCC

India has also proposed to hold the next Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) or FM-level talks in virtual format as soon as possible.

“We want to do it as soon as possible,” an Indian government source said adding that both sides will find a convenient date.

During the meeting, Rohingya issue was also discussed and both sides laid emphasis on safe, secure and sustainable Rohingya repatriation.

Shringla met the Prime Minister at the Gonobhaban around 7:30pm. The meeting lasted about an hour. There has been no statement as yet from the Prime Minister’s Office on the meeting.

The IndianForeign Secretary Shringla is on a visit to Dhaka to discuss and take forward cooperation on matters of mutual interest, said the Indian HighCommission in Dhaka soon after his arrival.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen will hold a bilateral meeting with his Indian counterpart on Wednesday.

“It’s not a sudden visit. India is our important neighbour. We have a lot of interactions with India,” Foreign Secretary Masud

Shringla, who had served as Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, assumed office of the Indian Foreign Secretary in January this year.

As the Foreign Secretary, he first visited Dhaka in March this year and met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. There has been a gap of bilateral visit between the two countries over the last few months due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

But the two countries were connected virtually and held a number of important discussions on various issues of mutual interest.

India has recently described its relations with Bangladesh as “exceptionally close” but expressed displeasure over “mischievous” stories pertaining to Bangladesh-India ties.

“We’re confident that both sides appreciate mutual sensitivity and mutual respect building further on the relationship,” said Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava at a virtual weekly media briefing in New Delhi recently.

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen termed the Bangladesh-India relations a ‘blood relationship’ while Bangladesh-China relations an ‘economic tie’.

Referring to Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar’s recent remarks, the MEA Spokesperson said India’s relationship with Bangladesh is a role model of good neighbourly relations in the region.

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