Foreign secretary Momen to visit India soon

Sunbd Desk || Published: 2020-08-30 15:03:32 || Updated: 2020-08-30 15:03:32

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen is expected to arrive in New Delhi in the middle of September, a month after his Indian counterpart’s sudden two-day Dhaka tour, diplomatic sources in Dhaka and New Delhi said on Sunday.

“It will be a return visit as Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla during his August 18-19 Dhaka tour invited his counterpart to visit India at his earliest convenience,” a senior official at the Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi said, asking to remain anonymous.

He also said the date of Masud’s visit is yet to be finalized.

A foreign ministry official in Dhaka substantiated the high commission source in New Delhi, saying preparations were underway for the foreign secretary’s India tour.

“The date (of the visit) is yet to be finalized, but the tour is expected to take place soon,” said the official, also asking for anonymity.

The officials said apart from reviewing bilateral issues of interest and follow-up on Shringla’s tour, Masud’s visit was also expected to lay the groundwork for the 6th foreign minister-level joint consultative committee (JCC) meeting this year.

During Shringla’s Dhaka visit, it was decided that the 6th JCC talks could be held through virtual media in view of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The 5th JCC meeting was held in New Delhi in February last year, with Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and then-Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj leading their respective sides.

The high commission official in Delhi said the two countries could operationalize Dhaka-New Delhi flights under an “air bubble travel arrangement” ahead of Masud’s visit.

When asked how the system could be launched, the official said a “note verbal” instead of a formal agreement could suffice to make the makeshift arrangement for the pandemic period operational.

Shringla proposed the arrangement during his visit and Dhaka accepted the proposition, although the modus operandi for operating limited flights between the two countries exclusively for officials, businesspeople and medical travellers is yet to be finalized.

Outgoing Indian High Commissioner Riva Ganguly earlier this week placed a proposal to Bangladesh’s civil aviation ministry for initiating the air bubble to launch exclusive flight operations, allowing no transit passengers from a third country.

India said it has introduced similar air bubbles with France, Germany, the UAE and the Maldives.

During his meeting with Ganguly, State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism M Mahbub Ali suggested the civil aviation authorities of the two countries set modalities for the air bubble mechanism, so both the neighbours and their people could get the maximum benefit from the system. BSS

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