Narendra Modi, Sheikh Hasina inaugurate Bangladesh Bhavan

Birbhum: Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina during the annual convocation of Visva Bharati University, in Birbhum, on Friday. (PTI Photo/Ashok Bhaumik) (PTI5_25_2018_000054B)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, met his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Friday as she arrived for her second visit to the country in just under two months. Modi addressed the convocation ceremony of Visva-Bharati University and inaugurated the Bangladesh Bhavan in Shantiniketan with Hasina.

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina. Reuters

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina. Reuters
The Bangladesh Bhavan at Santiniketan will house a library, a state-of-the-art archival centre, and a seminar hall, besides a sprawling space for cultural get-togethers. Apart from the literary works of Rabindranath Tagore, the centre will also showcase books and photographs on the Bangladesh Liberation War and India’s role in it.

While addressing the convocation ceremony, Modi, who is the chancellor of the university, also sought forgiveness from the students because as he said, some of them tried to tell him through gestures that there was no arrangement for even drinking water. He further said that he has attended several convocation ceremonies as the prime minister but, he has come to the Visva-Bharati University as a chancellor.

The prime minister also said that it is his privilege to spend time on Tagore’s soil. “Tagore was a global citizen and wanted Shantiniketan to be a home for the world…. He wanted students in India to have a wider global view and always gave priority to the identity of India,” Modi said.

Welcoming Hasina, Modi said that it has hardly ever happened before that two prime ministers of different nations attended the convocation ceremony of a university. He hailed the India-Bangladesh ties and said that the two nations can learn a lot from each other, be it in the field of public policy or culture. Bangladesh Bhavan is also an example of this and it is a reflection of Tagore’s ideas, he added.

Modi also congratulated the students who got their degrees at the convocation ceremony. He said that while the degree is important, what the students learned at the university is also equally significant.

Talking about new India, the prime minister said that about 125 crore Indians have pledged to create a new India by 2022. He said that the Centre is trying to match the education requirements to fulfill the idea of a new India. He further said that he wants the Visva-Bharati university to reach out to 100 villages and help them evolve.

The prime minister arrived in his chopper at Panagarh in Bardhaman West district around 10 am on Friday and left for the convocation venue soon after. He was greeted with a bouquet of flowers by Banerjee upon his arrival. Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi and senior leaders of West Bengal BJP unit were also present at the helipad to welcome the prime minister.

Both Modi and Hasina signed the visitors’ book at the university before taking to the dais at the convocation venue. Earlier in the day, the university witnessed unruly scenes as youths were seen protesting outside the convocation venue over the paucity of water, an official said.

The youths alleged that some students fell sick as there were inadequate arrangements for water and other facilities at the venue. The university authorities, however, said that the protesters were outsiders and had nothing to do with the university. “Some of the protesters were identified and asked to leave the venue. The problem has been taken care of,” said a university official.

Modi and Hasina are expected to hold informal talks later. The issue of Rohingya crisis and Teesta Water Dispute is likely to come up in their discussion.

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