KOLKATA: Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared the stage with Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the 49th convocation of Visva-Bharti University last year. In Modi's maiden visit to varsity since becoming the Prime Minister, he first apologised to the students.
“First of all, as the chancellor of Visva Bharati University, I apologise. When I was coming here, some students were telling me that gestures that there is no arrangement of drinking water, I want to apologise for all the inconvenience caused to you.” Invoking Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who founded the central university, and his iconic short story 'Kabuliwala', Modi said he felt privileged to spend time on “Tagore's soil”. “Tagore was a global citizen and wanted Shantiniketan to be a home for the world... Tagore wanted students in India to have a wider global view and always gave priority to the identity of India.”
The convocation ceremony paved way for the historic moment, when Modi shared the dais with Banerjee and Hasina. It however, missed out on an important tradition as he did not award the university's highest accolade, 'Desikottam'. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had not given clearance for tradition, citing his tight schedule. Modi is the “acharya” or chancellor of the central university, and will inaugurate the Bangladesh Bhavan- a symbol of cultural ties between India and Bangladesh, with Sheikh and hold a bilateral meeting in which, issues like Teesta water sharing, trade, and the influx of Rohingya refugees are most likely to be discussed.
Hasina's delegation involves almost 100 invitees, including her sister Rehana, Foreign Minister Abul Hasan Mahmood Ali, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid, and Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor.