Sushma sings 'a new song of co-operation' to Bangladesh

By : Sushma Swaraj
Last Updated: Sun, Jun 29, 2014 00:47 hrs
Potentiality of Indo-Bangladesh partnership vast: Swaraj

Excerpts from a speech by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, at Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies, June 26, 2014, at Dhaka

We are convinced that India's development cannot be complete and sustainable unless we succeed in building productive partnerships with our immediate neighbours.

We will, therefore, devote our energy to working much more closely with our neighbours in pursuit of our development goals. We will pursue the goal of economic integration and interconnectedness through trade, investment, transportation, capacity building, environment friendly practices and means that promote equitable development in the region.

We know from experience that democracy requires building strong institutions and promoting a culture of tolerance, inclusion and respect for differences. The strength of democracy lies in its ability to manage differences and resolve them through peaceful means.

It is well-known that a great deal has been accomplished in the India-Bangladesh relationship in the last few years. Progress has been made towards settling long-pending issues.

Fresh ground has been broken in the areas of security, economic development, sub-regional co-operation, opening of the Indian market to Bangladeshi goods, border infrastructure, energy and people-to-people exchanges.

There is forward movement on accessing the hydel energy potential of our north east by Bangladesh. The first step in building an energy corridor has been taken with the commissioning of the Behrampur-Bheramara power interconnection, supplying 500 Mw to Bangladesh.

We will be working to promote more interconnections to facilitate supply of 100 Mw power to Bangladesh from the Palatana project and to enable mutually beneficial co-operation in tapping the vast power potential in north eastern India.

Recognising the need for us to catalyse sub-regional co-operation, India and Bangladesh have taken the lead to initiate talks at the sub-regional level on power, water, trade and connectivity.

India is prepared to host the next meetings of the sub-regional groups in the last week of July, subject to the agreement of all our partners. We will build upon this and promote the establishment of telecommunications, diesel and LNG highways.

There is extensive high-level bilateral interaction between our leaders that is planned over the next few months - we hope that our prime ministers will meet soon.

We are grateful for the co-operation we have received from Bangladesh in combating trans-boundary crime, insurgency and terrorism.

Fruitful and constructive interaction by way of promoting tourism, business, social linkages and the like between our people and countries holds the key not only to better understanding at the popular level but to economic and commercial opportunities beyond our imagination.

We owe it to our people to put in place a legal and administrative regime that encourages adherence to rule of law and discourages illegal actions.

People-to-people and cultural exchanges are the bedrock of mutual understanding and awareness about each other. We should especially focus on our youth and make them stakeholders in the relationship.

We should bridge the knowledge and information gap through greater exchanges and capacity building. In this context, we look forward to welcoming a 100-member youth delegation from Bangladesh in the second half of the year.

We have also increased the number of training slots to 215 this year from 185 under our Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme. We will also facilitate the establishment of a Bangladesh Bhaban in Shanti Niketan, believing that activities of the Bhaban will help draw our people closer together.

As our countries grow, our priority must also be to create inter-linkages and to fill the gaps, both in policy and infrastructure. We will expedite our border infrastructure projects. Simultaneously, we should work to decongest existing trading routes, largely roads, and encourage more trade through railways, waterways and coastal shipping.

We should further expand our air links. I am happy to announce that we will augment the popular Maitree Express service by increasing the number of air-conditioned coaches and by increasing the frequency of the service. We are also looking forward to starting a Guwahati-Shillong-Dhaka Bus Service.

We will work with Bangladesh to move beyond the quota-free, duty-free regime to facilitate trade and address the trade imbalance. Greater Indian investments will also help to augment Bangladesh's export basket and contribute to a reduction of the imbalance.

Bangladesh has ambitious plans to develop infrastructure and become a knowledge-based and technology-driven middle income country by 2021. India would like to be your partner of choice in this endeavour. Indian companies have today developed world-class capabilities and are in a position to contribute to Bangladesh's economic expansion and modernisation.

I am extremely glad that out of the 15 projects agreed under the existing $800 million Line of Credit, seven have been completed, four are under execution and four are in the process of being tendered. I am happy to announce a grant of Rs 60 crore for the implementation of small development projects in Bangladesh in the current financial year.

I would also like to congratulate the Government of Bangladesh for the opening of the BIMSTEC Secretariat in Dhaka, and for hosting the next BCIM Working Group meeting. India will work with all partners to carry these initiatives forward.

Today, when we are at the cusp of a new beginning, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore's words, "At the dawn of a new age, Do not fritter away your time pondering the right time." from the poem, 'The Dawn of a New Age' inspire us.

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore was the first Asian poet to win the Nobel Prize in 1913 and the poet who has penned our national anthem as also the national anthem of Bangladesh, Amar Sonar Bangla.

This shared power of pen must write a new song of co-operation and progress.

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