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India Gives $4.5-Billion line of credit to Bangladesh for development projects, Signs first-ever pact on Defense cooperation

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an additional $500 million in credit for Bangladesh to buy military equipment from India during the visit to New Delhi by Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hand with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi, India, Saturday, April 8, 2017, VOA

New Delhi, April 8, 2017: India and Bangladesh signaled deepening ties Saturday as New Delhi committed a $4.5-billion line of credit to Dhaka for development projects, and the two countries signed their first-ever pact on defense cooperation.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an additional $500 million in credit for Bangladesh to buy military equipment from India during the visit to New Delhi by Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Calling India a “long standing and trusted development partner,” Modi said that the new credit lines “bring our resources allocation to Bangladesh to more than $8 billion over the past six years.”

Both leaders reaffirmed their close ties during the Bangladeshi prime minister’s first visit to India in seven years, with Modi speaking of a “golden era” in their friendship and Hasina saying their friendly ties would benefit South Asia.

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The two countries signed 22 agreements, including one on civil nuclear cooperation that aims to help Bangladesh develop its civilian nuclear program.

Many in New Delhi see the deal for defense cooperation over the next five years as the key breakthrough that will help reduce Bangladesh’s reliance on China for its military needs.

Worried by the growing Chinese influence in its neighborhood, New Delhi has made a concerted push in recent years to grow strategic ties with neighboring countries. Bangladesh’s purchase of two submarines from China last year deepened those concerns in India.

Calling the defense pact a feather in India’s cap, Sukh Deo Muni, a South Asia expert at New Delhi’s Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses, said,“India does not want China to consolidate defense ties just next to its belly, that is true.”

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Although the political opposition in Bangladesh has denounced the pact, independent analysts in Dhaka was optimistic that it will help achieve balance.

“Approximately 80 percent dependency at this moment you see on China, so it should be brought down. That actually reduces our vulnerability,” said Abdur Rashid, Executive Director of the Institute of Conflict, Law and Development Studies in Dhaka. “If one is interrupted we can depend on the other.”

A new rail link between the Indian city of Kolkata and Khulna in Bangladesh, and a bus link between Kolkata and Dhaka also were inaugurated, while another old rail link was restored to coincide with Hasina’s visit. The Bangladeshi leader said the greater connectivity is vital for the region’s development.

A key water-sharing agreement that Dhaka has long pushed for, however, eluded Hasina.

Although New Delhi favors such an arrangement, opposition from West Bengal state in India, through which the Teesta River flows into Bangladesh, has prevented the two countries from clinching a deal.

As Modi assured her of his commitment to conclude a deal, the Bangladeshi leader sounded a note of optimism. “I believe we shall be able to get India’s support in resolving these issues expeditiously,” said Hasina.

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The two countries have had a close relationship since 1971, when India helped Bangladesh gain independence from Pakistan following a bloody nine-month war. (VOA)

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India’s President ‘Ram Nath Kovind’ Designates ‘Narendra Modi’ as PM for Second Term

The Election Commission announced that the BJP won 303 out of 542 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament

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Newly elected lawmakers from India's ruling alliance led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party raise their hands in support of Narendra Modi's election as their leader in New Delhi, May 25, 2019. VOA

India’s president on Saturday appointed Narendra Modi as the prime minister soon after newly elected lawmakers from the ruling alliance, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, elected him as their leader following a thunderous victory in national elections.

President Ram Nath Kovind said in a tweet that he also asked Modi to forward the names of those to be appointed as ministers in his government and the date for the swearing-in for his second five-year term as prime minister. Modi and some leaders of his alliance met the president on Saturday.

Media reports said Modi was likely to be sworn in by Kovind on Thursday.

BJP president Amit Shah announced Modi’s name as the leader of the National Democratic Alliance in a meeting of the lawmakers in the Central Hall of Parliament in New Delhi.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, second right, hugs senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader M.M. Joshi as L.K. Advani, left, watches after Modi’s election as ruling alliance leader, in New Delhi, May 25, 2019. VOA

The Election Commission announced that the BJP won 303 out of 542 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, after the official vote count from the six-week-long election was completed on Friday. That is well beyond the simple majority a party in India needs to form a government.

The BJP’s top rival, the Indian National Congress led by Rahul Gandhi, won 52 seats, and the All India Trinamool Congress led by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee won 22.

Unity movement

Critics say Modi and his party have applied divisive policies and used a Hindu-first strategy. But Modi said after Saturday’s vote that “this election has become a movement of social unity.” “It is generally said that the election divides, creates distances, makes walls. But the 2019 elections have worked to break the walls,” he said in his address.

On Friday, Modi met with his outgoing Cabinet ministers and later presented his resignation to the country’s president. The president asked the officials to continue to serve until the new government assumes office.

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The Election Commission announced that the BJP won 303 out of 542 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament. VOA

Gandhi, whose great-grandfather, grandmother and father were all prime ministers, personally conceded his seat, long a Congress party bastion, to his BJP rival, India’s textiles minister, marking the end of an era for modern India’s most powerful political dynasty.

Counting of the estimated 600 million ballots cast over six weeks of staggered polling — the world’s largest democratic exercise — began early Thursday.

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Hindu-first politics

The victory was largely seen as a referendum on Modi’s Hindu-first politics that some observers say have bred intolerance toward Muslims and other religious minorities, as well as his muscular stance on neighboring Pakistan, with whom India nearly went to war earlier this year after suicide attacks killed more than 40 Indian security officials in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Modi effectively used the incident as a major campaign tool after responding to the attack with an airstrike in Pakistan that triggered nationalist sentiments, with the BJP saying Modi is the right person to ensure India’s national security. (VOA)