Number of outcomes expected in March on shared future, he says
India has said it is committed to taking forward the strong relations with Bangladesh in the next 50 years and beyond focusing on mutual benefits and expanding it to all the sectors, noting that India never shows any ‘big-brother’ attitude towards Bangladesh.
“For us, the friendship with Bangladesh is the cornerstone of our foreign policy. How could we be acting in a big-brotherly way? Honestly speaking, Bangladesh is a big country with 170 million people. So, there’s no reason to have this apprehension,” said Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Vikram Kumar Doraiswami.
He said Bangladesh is special as a friend always having a strong development partnership, and he has no idea why this apprehension is there.
The Indian diplomat was speaking at ‘DCAB Talk’ organised by the Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) at the Jatiya Press Club on February 15. DCAB President Pantho Rahman and General Secretary AKM Moinuddin also spoke at the event.
Doraiswami said they have to look at a shared future, a future where 170 million people of Bangladesh and 1.3 billion Indians can see what more the two countries can do together. “Better cooperation between us should be the fundamental plan for our shared future.”
“Sometimes there is a sense that there is a lot of mistrust about our [Indo-Bangla] relations. Let me say categorically that a strong, stable, prosperous, flourishing Bangladesh is in India’s fundamental national interest. Your success is the best thing that can happen to us,” he said.
“Therefore, all the ideas that we are somehow not interested in Bangladesh’s development, you can please dismiss them as conspiracy theories,” Doraiswami said.
The High Commissioner hinted further directives from the top leadership on the shared future and responsibility during the planned visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March next.
He said they have not formally announced the visit but it is planned following the invitation extended by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. “We’re working on a number of outcomes.”
High Commissioner Doraiswami talked about partnership in the energy sector, people-to-people ties and larger political relationships and all these things are negotiated. “Many things are needed to be finalised.”
He said there will be historic component, government-to-government component and cooperation in specific areas during the planned visit as the two countries want to take forward the relations in the next 50 years and beyond.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for accepting her invitation to visit Bangladesh in person in March 2021 to join the celebrations on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s Independence and 50 years of Bangladesh-India diplomatic relations.
High Commissioner Doraiswami said they need to remember and carry forward always the understanding that the relationship between the two countries is based on history, friendship based on respect and affection and the two countries share so many things. “We share the responsibility to take forward this relationship.”
He said a strong, stable, prosperous and flourishing Bangladesh is in India’s fundamental national interest.
Therefore, the High Commissioner said, "All the ideas that we are somehow not interested in Bangladesh's development, you can please dismiss it as conspiracy theories."
“Your development is good for us. There’s absolutely no doubt in anybody’s mind about this. There’s a bipartisan consensus in India about the importance of Bangladesh,” he said adding that Bangladesh remains one of their most important relationships and every government and each Prime Minister of India invested in the best possible ties with Bangladesh.
High Commissioner Doraiswami said they recognise that the benefit of the relations must be mutual.
“Both sides must benefit from our relationship. This is exactly what we’re committed to doing. We want a stronger development partnership with Bangladesh; expand our relations in trade as trade has to be the future, stronger people-to-people ties and every sector of human activities,” said the High Commissioner.
The High Commissioner said given the complexities of Teesta, especially internal challenges in India, things on other six rivers can move forward in a much faster way. “I think we should put in lots of efforts on that.”
The two countries underscored the need for early conclusion of Framework of Interim Agreement on sharing of waters of six joint rivers -- Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.
“Our government is committed to the highest level (regarding Teesta). Our friends also need to understand this is not a matter on which the government of Delhi (central government) has a single say. It does require bringing all the stakeholders on board,” he said.
The High Commissioner said this is a process they have tried very hard to complete and they will continue to try. “We understand and acknowledge the importance of sharing water.”
He said water must be shared as equitably as possible. “So, we are committed to this.”
The High Commissioner said they can come close to an interim water-sharing framework for six rivers with progress on data harmonisation.
Bangladesh and India agreed that the loss of civilian lives along the border is a matter of concern, and directed the border forces concerned to enhance coordinated measures to work towards bringing such border incidents to a zero level.
Responding to a question, the High Commissioner said it is important that both sides work together to prevent violent clashes. “This’s not a situation that anybody wants.”
He highlighted what is actually going on, what is the challenge and what should be done to address the problems on both sides of the border and encourage economic activities in the two countries.
Responding to a question on bureaucracy, the High Commissioner said bureaucracy has been extremely supportive. “I would like to thank the bureaucracy on both sides for their efforts to take forward the relations.”
On alleged overstaying of Indians in Bangladesh, the envoy said they certainly do not encourage anybody to overstay.
The High Commissioner also trashed a misinformation that without vaccination nobody will be allowed to visit India. “Travelling is going on with Covid-free certificates. We issue 16, 00 visas per day even during the pandemic situation.”
Genocide: It's for Bangladesh to decide
High Commissioner Doraiswami indicated that the trial of Pakistani genocide committed during the 1971 Liberation War can take place anytime as there is no statute of limitations in terms of times.
“To the best of my knowledge, there's no statute of limitations on genocide. The genocide convention makes it very clear that there is no statute of limitations in terms of time, and there's no statute of limitations on any kind of arrangement that may have been arrived at," he said.
So, the High Commissioner said, this (genocide trial) is something that’s entirely within the "prerogative" of the government of Bangladesh to assess history and see how this goes forward.
Doraiswami came up with the remarks when asked which provision of the 1974 tripartite agreement is holding back to try the Pakistani generals who committed genocide during the War of Liberation in 1971.
Sharing his ‘personal understanding’ of the international law on this matter, he also suggested that the 1974 agreement must be looked at from the context of that time since it was done to ensure that Bangladeshis in Pakistan custody can return home.
“History is history and whatever was signed was signed at that particular time. It’s the prerogative of the Bangladesh government to have its own perspective on the matter,” said the Indian envoy noting that the question is historically very relevant in this historic year when Bangladesh is set to celebrate the 50 years of its Independence.
The High Commissioner said they would certainly watch it with sympathy and understanding.
Bangladesh has recently reiterated the importance of resolving outstanding bilateral issues with Pakistan, including an official apology from Pakistan for the genocide it committed during Bangladesh's Liberation War in 1971.
Bangladesh also sought completion of the repatriation of stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh, and settling the issue of the division of assets.
Bangladesh also made it clear that it cannot forget the atrocities committed by Pakistan in 1971 and the pain will remain there forever.