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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bangladesh visit: All you need to know

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New Delhi: With the land swap agreement as the centerpiece, Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves today on a two-day “historic” visit to Bangladesh where he will hold talks with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina and ink several agreements, especially in the field of connectivity and trade.

Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar told the media ahead of Modi’s 36-hour visit that the Land Boundary Agreement, which was approved by the Indian Parliament last month, would help to consolidate and deepen bilateral ties.

Both sides would formally ratify the LBA, which envisages the transfer of 111 enclaves with a total area of 17,160.63 acres to Bangladesh, while Dhaka is to transfer 51 enclaves with an area of 7,110.02 acres to India. A 6.1-km undefined border stretch will be demarcated.

“It will actually help very much with management of the border,” said Jaishankar, adding that it would help in improvement of the security situation, help deal with trafficking, and smuggling of drugs and counterfeit currency.

A demarcated border would also bring clarity and discipline and also help boost connectivity, he said.

The likely agreements will be in the field of movement of goods, coastal shipping and waterways. “We hope to have an understanding in telecom and Internet by cooperative arrangements,” he added.

Agreements also could be inked in the field of railways, roads, ports, health and education, he said.

India is also set to give more electricity to Bangladesh. It at present supplies 500 MW to Bangladesh, and now expects to “increase it substantially” with power to eastern Bangladesh.

India would also supply diesel from West Bengal to Bangladesh, which would help better the energy situation there, he said.

Modi, along with Hasina and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, would flag off two bus services: the Shillong-Dhaka-Guwahati bus service, and the Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala bus service, which is expected to give a major boost to people-to-people connectivity.

The bus connection would reduce the travel distance from 1,650 km to 400 km.

Modi’s visit would see a boost in the investment climate with India keen to address Bangladesh’s concerns about the trade imbalance.

Jaishankar said the private sector in India is more keen to invest in Bangladesh due to the improved political situation there.

In the field of railways, both countries have the Kolkata to Dhaka Maitree Express and would examine the possibility of a train service between Khulna and Kolkata.

India and Bangladesh share a 4,096 km border, of which over 1,000 km comprises riverine. Both sides are to examine the potential to boost waterways connectivity.

The visit would see both sides negotiate a coastal shipping agreement, which would allow smaller Indian vessels to go to Bangladesh.

Both also have an inland waterways agreement inked in 1972, which has not seen much progress. Indian companies are being invited to set up ports in Bangladesh.

Modi and Sheikh Hasina are to jointly inaugurate a border haat in Tripura via video conference at Kasba in western Tripura.

This would add to the three already in existence – two in Meghalaya and one in Tripura.

Both sides have an Integrated Trade Checkpost in Agartala, while the Petrapole Land Check Post is to be converted into an Integrated Check Post.

Bilateral trade, which stands at $6.5 billion, is heavily skewed in India’a favour. Both sides are to focus on expanding trade and Indian investment.

Among the agreements would be one for making available Bangladeshi TV programmes in India.

Jaishankar said the ratification of the LBA, besides being an affirmation of the government’s “neighbourhood first” policy, would also give a fillip to India’s Act East policy.

Describing Bangladesh as an “exceptional neighbour”, he said India supports Bangladesh as a democracy and notes their commitment to a pluralistic way of life. “We applaud them as a very responsible neighbour with whom we have developed a great relationship of mutual sensitivity.

Giving the itinerary, he said Modi would arrive in Dhaka late in the morning after which he would be accorded a ceremonial welcome. He would proceed to the National Martyr’s Memorial and then the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum for the country’s founder Sheikh Mujibur Rehman.

After lunch, along with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Sheikh Hasina, Modi is to flag off the two bus services.

After this, the two leaders would attend the ceremony of exchange of instruments of ratification of the LBA and the protocol, for implementing the land swap agreement.

Modi and Hasina would hold talks, following which there would be exchange of agreements and both would lay “virtual foundation stones” of some projects. Both leaders would make their press statements. Modi would attend a dinner hosted by Hasina.

The following day, Modi is to visit the Sri Dhakeshwari temple and the Ramakrishna Mission and the Indian High Commission’s new chancery complex. He would meet President Abdul Hamid over lunch.

Modi would then receive a number of leaders, political and commercial. Political leaders would include opposition leader Begum Raushan Ershad, and former prime minister and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Begum Khaleda Zia.

He would meet the presidents of leading chambers of commerce in Bangladesh and the leaders of the Left parties. His last engagement would be to address a meeting of a cross-section of society at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre. (IANS)

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Fall Of The Currency And Increase In Oil Prices: India ‘s Turmoil

The falling rupee has given a boost to some of India’s most lucrative exports, such as software services and pharmaceuticals, which add up to billions of dollars.

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India
Rajesh Kumar, left, shares a ride to work with another employee, Dilip Swain, right, as higher petrol prices in India begin to be felt in people's pocketbooks.VOA

The fall of the currency of India to record lows and rising global oil prices have raised worries that the world’s fastest growing economy faces headwinds that could hurt the fortunes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party in next year’s general elections.

From people filling fuel at gas stations to thousands of students heading out to study overseas, the impact of the slumping rupee is sparking discontent.

Having plunged by about 12 percent against the dollar this year, the rupee is one of Asia’s worst faring currencies, and as in other countries, the slide has accelerated since the crash of the Turkish lira.

“The reasons are global. We must bear in mind that in last few months, dollar has strengthened against almost every currency,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently as he tried to send out reassuring signals that India’s economy is on track.

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The rupee has plunged by about 12 percent this year raising fears of spiraling inflation. VOA

The rupee’s sharp depreciation comes at a time when the economy had recovered from a slowdown and surged to a two-year high in the quarter that ended in June. Forecasts put growth for this year at 7.5 percent.

Economy will slow

But economists warn this momentum will be difficult to sustain as the tumbling rupee, along with rising crude oil prices, takes a toll on growth. India, the world’s third largest oil importer, gets almost 80 percent of its fuel needs overseas.

“The government needs to mellow down on growth aspirations,” said N.R. Bhanumurthy, economist with the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. “The growth needs to come down to a little less than 7 percent.”

Even as the government faces the prospect of a slowing economy, it is under pressure to lower taxes on gas and diesel to bring down the sharp rise in prices. Fuel is one of the most heavily taxed items in India, with rates as high as nearly 50 percent. Prices vary from state to state, but they have gone up by about 14 percent this year.

Hoping to cash in on the growing disaffection over the surge in fuel prices and the sliding rupee, opposition parties led nationwide protests that shutdown offices and schools in several cities this week.

India
Discontent with spiraling fuel prices poses a challenge to Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of general elections next year. VOA

The government dismissed the protests, saying that although people faced momentary difficulties, they understood they were because of factors beyond its control.

Political analysts are not so sure, pointing out that fuel prices are a politically sensitive issue in India and usually result in a spike in inflation.

“Anger is rising, there is resentment,” said Satish Misra at the Observer Research Foundation, warning the ruling party will face a backlash “Obviously that is going to have a negative impact on the electoral fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party, there is no doubt about that.”

Warnings from economists

Among those who are upset with the high fuel prices is Rajesh Kumar, who commutes 30 kilometers to the advertising agency where he works. Hit by the higher prices that eat into his income, he has started sharing the ride with another employee.

India
Narendra Modi. Wikimedia Commons

“I have given up the idea of buying another car,” he said despondently. “I will not be able to afford the cost of running it.”

Economists however have warned the government against giving in to populist pressures ahead of a series of state polls later this year and general elections around April next year. They say lowering taxes on fuel or taking measures to prop up the currency will strain the country’s finances and hurt the economy in the long run.

Also Read: Diverse Gathering To Be Addressed This World BioFuel Day: PM Narendra Modi

“One needs to be more careful and vigilant,” Bhanumurthy said. “It is easy for India to stay with low growth than experiencing the high deficit.”

But there is also some good news for the Indian economy. The falling rupee has given a boost to some of India’s most lucrative exports, such as software services and pharmaceuticals, which add up to billions of dollars. (VOA)