A very good afternoon and a warm welcome to ICWA. Today’s Round Table discussion is - “Reflections on India-Bangladesh Relations”. I warmly welcome Shri Shantanu Mukharji, Advisor NatStrat; .Mr. Syed Badrul Ahsan, eminent journalist and a veteran editor from Bangladesh, Distinguished Panelists, Shri Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury Editor Economic Times Diplomatic Affairs, Prof. Sanjay Bhardwaj of JNU.
In March 2021, Prime Minister Modi visited Dhaka. He participated in the National Day of Bangladesh to mark three important events - the 50th anniversary of the independence of Bangladesh, the golden jubilee of the establishment of our diplomatic relations and the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. In September 2022, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was on a visit to India. Earlier on 6 December 2021, the two countries had jointly celebrated Maitri -Diwas, all over the world, to mark the day when India formally recognized Bangladesh as an independent Nation State. ICWA was honored and privileged to observe Maitri Diwas and to have received a message from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on that occasion.
Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation, after bravely fighting a brutally oppressive regime. The people and Government of India had whole heartedly supported the freedom struggle of Bangladesh. The memory of that shared struggle has, over the five decades, forged a unique bond of friendship between the two countries that is mutually beneficial and based on a convergence of interests.
What stood out in the bilateral relations, especially in the last few years, is the political will and the willingness by both countries to work together. These two factors ensured resolution of complex issues. India and Bangladesh are land and maritime neighbors. Borders were settled in an amicable manner. Land boundary was settled through bilateral negotiations and the maritime boundary through an international Arbitration Award. In fact, the relationship is one that stands out for its exemplary co-operation in several fields.
Over the years, Bangladesh and India have consolidated their political engagement and have built a comprehensive institutional framework to promote bilateral cooperation. Bangladesh figures prominently in India’s Neighborhood First policy.
India has emerged as one of the biggest development partners of Bangladesh. In the last few years India has extended 3 Lines of amounting to US$ 8 billion) to Bangladesh, for development of infrastructure. It is also the biggest amount offered by India to any one country.
Together, India and Bangladesh have built a network of roads, railways, inland water ways and ports. These have greatly enhanced connectivity and will further deepen the economic, trade, cultural and people to people linkages.
In the energy sector there is the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline Project, the Maitree Thermal Power plant and power transmission lines. Sub-regional cooperation, especially in energy sector, is also expanding. These are important initiatives in a time when there is a global energy crisis.
Bangladesh is India’s biggest trading partner in South Asia and India has been the second biggest trade partner of Bangladesh. As Bangladesh moves out of the LDC status and we go ahead with the discussions on the Bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership, what are the expectations on both sides? In addition, in this round table ideas on river management, border management, and handling threat of terrorism would be useful as also ideas on the possibilities of co-operation in new and emerging areas - AI, Fintech, Data Management as we seek to expand the relationship.