1) PM Narendra Modi in Bangladesh
– India found a place of honour and mention on Bangladesh’s National Day this year commemorating the 50 years of liberation.
– India’s vital role in the liberation meant that PM Narendra Modi was the chief guest for the grand celebrations on March 26.
– Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina also recalled the role played by the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and she also turned emotional while speaking of 1975, when her entire family was wiped out in an assassination carried out on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. She said even at that time she found refuge in India.
– PM Modi announced a programme for 50 entrepreneurs from Bangladesh to come to India to meet with venture capitalists and also announced 1000 golden jubilee scholarships for students.
– Focussing on connectivity both sides announced a Mitali Express, a passenger train service to run between Dhaka and New Jalpaiguri on the Haldibari-Chilahati track that has been defunct since 1965.
– Water sharing seemed to be an outstanding issue between the two sides. While PM Sheikh Hasina raised the issue of Teesta water-sharing, India raised the issue of early clearing of the water sharing draft for river Feni lying with Bangladesh for approval since 2011, the same time since the Teesta treaty has been stalled in India due to objections from West Bengal.
– Meanwhile, protests broke out in parts of Bangladesh against PM Modi’s visit. The protests turned violent in some regions and casualties were also reported.
– Listen to our podcast with LT Col Sajjad Ali Zahir, who fought the 1971 war and is the Padma Shri awardee by India this year. He talks about the “bond of blood” between India and Bangladesh and whether the emotional connection means anything at all in present times.
– Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent across a letter on Pakistan National Day to his counterpart Imran Khan saying India desires cordial relations with Pakistan but an atmosphere of trust is required.
– The Pakistan Prime Minister responded to the letter on Tuesday, saying people of Pakistan desire peaceful, cooperative relations with all neighbours, including India. He added that “durable peace” is contingent upon resolving outstanding issues, particularly Jammu and Kashmir.
– Meanwhile, Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has made statements seeking peace with India. He recently said – “We feel that it is time to bury the past and move forward.”
– The comments coupled with the decision in February to recommit to the 2003 ceasefire understanding between India and Pakistan has given rise to hope of a peace process getting underway, although India remains cautious.
3) EAM in Heart of Asia
– External Affairs minister S Jaishankar attended the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process on Afghanistan peace talks in Dushanbe, Istanbul.
– In his statement, he said, “For a durable peace in Afghanistan, what we need is a genuine ‘double peace’, that is, peace within Afghanistan and peace around Afghanistan. It requires harmonizing the interests of all, both within and around that country.”
– He also said the continued involvement of foreign fighters in Afghanistan is particularly disturbing. Heart of Asia members and supporting countries should, therefore, make it a priority to press for an immediate reduction in violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.
– All eyes were on the Heart of Asia conference because it if for the first time since the peace overtures from Pakistan that the foreign ministers of both sides were in the same room. However, there was no separate meeting between the two leaders.
4) India-Pakistan Indus Commission meeting
– The Annual Meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) comprising of Indus Commissioners of India and Pakistan was held on March 23-24, 2021 in New Delhi.
– Discussions continued on designs of two Indian projects, namely, Pakal Dul (1000 MW) and Lower Kalnai (48 MW). The Indian side held that these projects are fully compliant with the provisions of the Treaty and provided technical data in support of its position.
– The Pakistani side issued a press release saying, “Pakistan side reiterated its objections to the Indian projects including Pakal Dul, Lower Kulnai, Durbuk Shyok and Nimu Chilling.”
– The meeting could not be held last year due to restrictions induced by the prevailing Covid 19 pandemic situation.
– Under the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty, signed between India and Pakistan in 1960, the two Commissioners are required to meet at least once every year, alternately in India and Pakistan.
5) Quad naval exercise in Kochi
– The navies of the Quad countries – US, India, Japan and Australia will be participating in a naval exercise ‘La Perouse’, led by the French navy in the Bay of Bengal, from April 5.
– The French amphibious assault helicopter carrier Tonnerre and Surcouf frigate arrived at Kochi port on Tuesday for the exercise.
– The 2021 edition of ‘La Perouse’, will witness for the first time all four Quad members taking part in it.