Parosi pehele, lekin Bangladesh sabse pehele: Sushma

Courier Report
Thursday, October 26th, 2017

Visiting Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on 22 October 2017 meets Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at Ganobhaban - PID


Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi have already laid a strong foundation of cooperation between the two countries. To review the growing relations, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj paid an official visit to Bangladesh on October 22-23 that could afford an opportunity for review of the excellent bilateral relations between Bangladesh and India.


This was the second visit of Sushma to Bangladesh and comes soon after the State visit of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh to India in April 2017. During the visit, she and her Bangladesh counterpart AH Mahmood Ali co-chaired the 4th meeting of the India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission.


The External Affairs Minister said Bangladesh gets priority among all India’s neighbours as per its neighbourhood policy.


“Our foreign policy follows neighbourhood first approach. Parosi pehele, lekin Bangladesh sabse pehele (Among all neighbours [of India] Bangladesh comes first),” she said reflecting India’s growing importance to Bangladesh.


Calling her Bangladesh counterpart AH Mahmood Ali as his ‘brother and Dada’, Sushma assured Bangladesh of resolving all the issues transparently and sincerely.


She refereed to the peaceful settlement of disputes over Maritime Boundary and Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh in the past.


Sushma inaugurated the new Chancery Complex of the Indian High Commission and 15 development projects in Bangladesh funded by the government of India at a cost of Tk 71.64 crore.


“I’m confident we would be able to take the relations to greater heights in the times to come,” said the External Affairs Minister.


Sushma said the relationship between Bangladesh and India is moving ahead in a faster pace.


She also laid emphasis on investing in youths who will lead the future of the two countries. “The youth of today is the future of tomorrow.”


Sushma expressed her satisfaction over easing visa process and hoped to issue visas for 14 lakh Bangladesh citizens in one year by the end of 2017.


She also delivered her speech partly in Hindi and concluded her speech saying “Bharat-Bangladesh Moitree Jindabad.”


In the beginning, Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Harsh Vardhan Shringla described the achievements of the Indian High Commission here, including easy visa process and development projects.


He also briefly talked about the Indian External Affairs Minister terming her India’s most loved politician.


A cultural programme showcasing the deep Bangladesh India relationship was also held before the Indian External Affairs Minister delivers her speech.


The Indian Minister left here for Delhi by a special flight at 1:13pm wrapping up her less than 24 hours official visit.


Rohingyas Issue


Minister Sushma Swaraj  said it is clear that normalcy over the Rohingya issue will be restored only with the return of the displaced people to Rakhine state.


“India is deeply concerned at the spate of violence in Rakhine State of Myanmar. We’ve urged that the situation be handled with restraint, keeping in mind the welfare of the population,” she said.


Sushma said they have also supported the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Kofi Annan led Special Advisory Commission report on Rakhine State.


The Indian External Affairs Minister came up with India’s position over Rohingya issue at a joint briefing after the fourth Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) meeting between Bangladesh and India held at Sonargaon Hotel in the city.


She also laid emphasis on creating economic opportunities in Rakhaine. “In our view, the only long-term solution to the situation in Rakhine State is rapid socio-economic and infrastructure development that would have a positive impact on all the communities living in the State.”


India, she said, for its part, has committed to providing financial and technical assistance for identified projects to be taken in Rakhine in conjunction with the local authorities.


Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali said Bangladesh urged India to contribute towards “exerting sustained pressure” on Myanmar to find a peaceful solution to Rohingya crisis including sustainable  return off all Rohingyas to their homeland.


“We’re happy to be reassured that India would continue to support the humanitarian cause related to Rohingyas in Bangladesh,” he said.


Minister Ali thanked the Indian side for humanitarian assistance provided for Roihingyas.


Around 6 lakh Rohingyas entered Bangladesh since August 25 and the aid agencies struggling to meet their growing need with limited resources.


India launched ‘Operation Insaniyat’ in September to support the government of Bangladesh in its commendable efforts to provide shelter in Cox’s Bazar to lakhs of displaced people who have fled Rakhine.


“Through this operation, we’ve supplied essential requirements by way of parboiled rice, dal, salt, sugar, cooking oil, tea, milk powder, mosquito nets and soap to about 300,000 displaced persons,” said the Indian minister.


The materials have been distributed to the intended recipients through the district administration in Cox’s Bazar.


Outstanding Issues


The Indian Minister assured Bangladesh of resolving all the pending issues as Bangladesh has long been waiting to see the signing of Teesta water sharing deal.


“We’re aware of the outstanding issues. We assure you that we’re working to resolve them,” Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told reporters at a joint briefing.


Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali said water resources must act as a ‘uniting force’ between the two countries.


“We discussed the issue of sharing of water of common rivers, including the signing of Teesta Water sharing agreement,” he said.


Minister Ali said they recalled the statement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 8 that the Teesta agreement will be signed during the current tenure of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Prime Minister Modi.


“We sought India’s technical and financial support to carry out a feasibility study on the long-term options for Bangladesh to ensure optimum use of Ganges water,” he said.


Both the ministers witnessed the signing and handing over of three bilateral documents which include capacity building in SME, sale-purchase agreement between Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation and Numaligarh Refinery of India.


The Foreign Minister also handed over the instrument of ratification for framework agreement on international solar alliance that Bangladesh ratified in August 2017.


Sushma said India attaches the utmost importance to its relations with Bangladesh and their partnership today touches upon virtually all areas of human endeavour.


“Our relations are based on fraternal ties and reflective of an all-encompassing partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust and understanding that goes far beyond a strategic partnership,” she said.


In the 4th Joint Consultative Commission, they discussed the common challenges that the two countries face today.


“One such challenge is that of terrorism, extremism and radicalisation and we’ll continue to fight this scourge together and along with other like-minded countries,” said the Indian External Affairs Minister.


She said both the countries are determined to protect their societies from the threat of ideologies of hate, violence and terror by adopting a zero tolerance policy and a comprehensive approach in fighting violent extremism and terrorism at all levels.


Minister Ali said Bangladesh-India relations now stand on a historic new height due to initiatives taken across sectors, namely trade, connectivity, security, border management, water, power and energy, development cooperation and people to people exchanges, among others.


Both the sides reiterated the strong commitment not to allow use of their soils against each other’s interest and zero tolerance against terrorism and violent extremism.


The two countries laid emphasis on bringing down the number of deaths at border to zero.


Minister Ali said the Indian side agreed to supply 340 MW more electricity from Tripura through Comilla grid in addition to current import of 600 MW of electricity.


Both the countries agreed that BBIN Motor Vehicle Agrement will be implemented between Bangladesh, India and Nepal through exchange of letters keeping provision for Bhutan to join later.


It was agreed that MoU for trilateral hydropower cooperation among Bangladesh, India and Bhutan would be signed soon.


India also agreed to facilitate import of electricity to Bangladesh from hydro projects in Nepal.


Gift to Hasina


Gift to Hasina


Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday gifted to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina memorabilia of the Liberation War of 1971 to be displayed in the Liberation War Museum.


The memorabilia includes military equipment used by the joint forces of India and Bangladesh during the Liberation War of 1971 as well as large number of artifacts and documents, including historical photographs, archival audio and video clippings, maps, battle records, newspaper clippings, documentary films etc.


The memorabilia is proposed to be displayed at Bangladesh National Museum and Museum of Independence situated at the historic Suhrawardy Udyan.

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