January 21, 2021, 3:12 pm
Dhaka: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today suggested further integrating economies of Bangladesh and India to consolidate the global and regional value chains cashing on the available synergies.
“I believe both our countries can move up the global and regional value chains by further integrating our economies taking advantage of available synergies,” she told her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in an India-Bangladesh virtual summit.
Describing the ongoing connectivity initiatives between the two next-door neighbours as catalysts in this regard, the premier said, “A prime example is the resumption of Chilahati-Haldibari rail link which we inaugurated today.”
Sheikh Hasina led the Bangladesh delegation from her official Ganabhaban residence here while Narendra Modi led the Indian delegation joining the meeting online from New Delhi.
Turning to growing dependency of economies of the two friendly countries, she said, “We happily recognise the growing mutual dependency of the economies of Bangladesh and India. A good number of Indian nationals are employed in the manufacturing and service sector of Bangladesh and are remittance earners for India. On the other hand, India receives its highest number of tourists and medical patients from Bangladesh.”
The PM said that relations between Bangladesh and India have embarked on a landmark moment, adding, “Yesterday (Wednesday), Bangladesh celebrated 50 years as an independent nation. Bangladesh and India have also stepped into the 50th year of establishment of diplomatic relations.”
“Further, we are celebrating the 100th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Just a few months ago, we concluded celebrations of the 150th birth anniversary of your Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi,” she said.
“In Bangladesh, we released a special postal stamp as a mark of tribute to Bapuji. I understand today we will be inaugurating a stamp issued by the Postal Department of India in honour of Bangabandhu,” she added.
Sheikh Hasina conveyed her sincere gratitude to the Indian premier and the Indian government for “so spontaneously coming together to mark these important occasions” with joint celebrations. “We have chalked out joint programmes throughout the coming year in cities worldwide, to commemorate our inseparable linkages in Bangladesh’s Liberation War of 1971.”
“The crowning glory of our joint commemoration would be your presence in Dhaka for the celebrations on 26th March 2021,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina recalled her last meeting with Narendra Modi in October 2019 at the grand Hyderabad House in New Delhi, saying, “Much has changed since then. The world has witnessed an upheaval and mankind’s ability to counter the unknown has been put to the test. Millions of lives have been lost, livelihoods destroyed, economies slowed down, societies disrupted.”
“Perhaps the most stark manifestation of the COVID-19 pandemic is that people to people contacts have been forced to a standstill. Our hopes to welcome you in Dhaka earlier this year could not be fulfilled.” she continued.
“Yet, I commend the manner in which concerned authorities on both sides have taken forward our bilateral cooperation during these trying times, as per directives of our last Summit,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina mentioned that throughout 2020 they witnessed a number of initiatives such as trade through rail routes, high level visits and meetings, capacity-building initiatives, the first trial run of Indian cargo from Kolkata to North-East India and of course, cooperation on COVID-19.
Commending Narendra Modi for the manner in which his government has countered the COVID-19 in one of the world’s most affected and populated zones, she said, “Apart from the health care packages, the economic packages introduced under your initiative of “Atmanirbhar Bharat” is admirable.”
“We believe India will play an even more important role in the global economy through your policies taken,” said the Bangladesh Prime Minister.
In Bangladesh also, her government has introduced stimulus packages to the tune of 14.14 billion US dollars to offset the economic and social impacts of the pandemic, she said, adding that the government has expanded social safety-net coverage providing assistance to more than 25 million people since detection of the virus in early March.
Sheikh Hasina said extensive measures have been put in place to contain the second wave of the pandemic. “As a result, our economy has sustained an upward growth trend, despite widespread disruptions in the international supply chains and decline in consumer demand,” she said.
She paid rich tribute to members of the Indian armed forces martyred in the 1971 Liberation War and the government and people of India who extended their whole-hearted support for the cause of Bangladesh’s liberation.
Going down on the memory lane, Sheikh Hasina said, “Today (December 17) is a special day for us. We, my mother, younger sister Sheikh Rehana, Russell, four-month old little Joy and me were under the captivity of Pakistani occupation forces. Col Ashok Tara of India, who was then major, made us free from captivity in the morning of December 17, 197.”
“Bangladesh got freed on December 16, but we got freed on December 17,” she said, adding, “On this day (December 17), I have expressed my sincere gratitude to Col Ashok Tara.”
Mentioning that she was happy to meet her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi again, particularly on this month of Victory, Sheikh Hasina said, “December evokes in all Bangladeshis the spirit of joy, freedom and celebration as we recall with deep gratitude our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman under whose dynamic leadership, we earned our great independence.”
The PM also paid deep homage to the three million martyrs who laid down their lives and more than two hundred thousand women who sacrificed their honour for Bangladesh’s independence in 1971.
After their opening remarks, both Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi jointly inaugurated resumption of the Chilahati-Haldibari rail link alongside unveiling a commemorative stamp issued by the Postal Department of India in honour of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Apart from this, the two premiers jointly inaugurated the Bangabandhu-Bapu Digital Exhibition in New Delhi to show respect to the contributions of the two greatest leaders –Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Mahatma Gandhi – of the last century.
Prior to the bilateral talks between Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi, Bangladesh and India inked seven memorandums of understanding (MoUs) on different issues in Dhaka.
The signed documents are : Framework of understanding on cooperation in hydrocarbon sector, framework agreement on “high impact community development projects, protocol on trans-boundary elephant conservation, MoU on supply of equipment and improvement of garbage/solid waste disposal ground in Barishal City Corporation, MoU on cooperation in the field of agriculture, MoU between the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Museum, Dhaka and National Museum, New Delhi, and terms of reference of India-Bangladesh CEOs Forum. Bss.