On the first day of 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to seven leaders in five neighbouring countries - Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives - to convey New Year greetings.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday told his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina that close relations between the two countries are a priority for his government and the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is expected to boost these ties.
The remarks assume significance in view of strains in ties between the two countries in recent months over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens. The leadership in Dhaka has been irked by remarks by some BJP leaders about deporting all infiltrators.
Hasina was among seven leaders from neighbouring countries with whom Modi exchanged New Year greetings during telephone conversations. He congratulated Hasina on being re-elected as president of the ruling Awami League party for the next three years.
Modi "noted the progress achieved in India-Bangladesh relations in 2019", according to an official statement. He said the upcoming birth centenary of Mujibur Rahman, Hasina's father, and 50 years of the liberation of Bangladesh and establishment of diplomatic ties "provided important milestones to further progress of the close India-Bangladesh ties, which is a priority of his government".
The prime minister also expressed condolences on the recent death of former Bangladesh high commissioner Syed Muazzem Ali.
In all the conversations, Modi conveyed good wishes on behalf of the people of India and emphasized New Delhi's commitment to the "neighbourhood first" policy and a vision of shared peace, security, prosperity and progress for all of the country's friends and partners in the region.
In his conversation with Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Modi highlighted achievements of last year that consolidated the special ties between the two sides. He emphasized the need to enhance youth exchanges and mentioned he was looking forward to the king's forthcoming visit to India. Modi also spoke to Bhutan's Prime Minister Lotay Tshering.
While speaking to Nepal's Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Modi expressed satisfaction at the completion of several projects, especially the Motihari- Amlekhgunj petroleum products pipeline. Both leaders agreed on the early inauguration of an integrated check post in Biratnagar and a housing reconstruction project in Nepal through a video conference.
Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa expressed confidence the two sides will enhance their friendly ties in 2020. Modi also spoke to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who expressed a keen desire to enhance bilateral relations.
The President of the Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, expressed his desire to deepen and strengthen ties with India by enhancing bilateral cooperation and exploring new areas for working together.