Foreign secretary in Bangladesh: Oil pipeline, Rohingya crisis discussed

India and Bangladesh on Monday signed six agreements, including one for a 129.5 km-long oil pipeline, and also discussed the Rohingya refugee crisis during Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale’s first visit to Dhaka.

The visit is part of Gokhale’s tour of the neighbourhood after taking over as India’s top diplomat. He has already visited China and Bhutan. Gokhale and his Bangladeshi counterpart Md Shahidul Haque discussed several bilateral and international issues during delegation-level talks after which the six memorandums of understanding (MoUs) were signed at Dhaka’s Padma Guest House.

The 129.5 km-long pipeline between Numaligarh in Assam and Parbatipur will allow Bangladesh to import high-speed diesel. The two countries are also exploring the possibility of a pipeline carrying gas from Dattapulia in West Bengal to Khulna in Bangladesh. An MoU was also signed between India’s public broadcaster Prasar Bharati and Bangladesh BETAR, the state-owned radio broadcasting organisation, Gokhale said.

The other agreements were for an Indian Council for Cultural Relations Urdu chair in the Dhaka University, an addendum to a nuclear energy pact and setting up of language labs in 500 schools in Bangladesh. “This is part of our endeavour to undertake projects in Bangladesh in various socio-economic sectors…for which we are providing 1,600 crore taka under grant financing,” the Indian foreign secretary said. The amount translates to Rs 1,300 crore. India will also help upgrade roads in Rangpur city, one of the oldest municipalities in Bangladesh. The two sides also discussed the much-delayed Teesta water sharing agreement, which has faced stiff resistance from West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

The foreign secretary lauded Bangladesh for helping the Rohingya refugees, who fled Myanmar after a crackdown in August 2017. As many as 700,000 Rohingya, most of them Muslims, are staying in refugee camps in Bangladesh. India had supported the efforts being made to resolve the crisis, including early repatriation of the displaced, Gokhale said. PM Sheikh Hasina had recently asked India to put pressure on Myanmar for repatriation of the Rohingya, fearing their prolonged stay could create a security situation. Gokhale called on Hasina and also foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali.