Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmud Ali has described India-Bangladesh partnership as “mature, broad and strong” and said the two countries share common commitment to advance regional and international cooperation.
In an exclusive interview with The Hindu on the eve of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s state visit to India, Mr. Ali, himself a career diplomat who defected Pakistan during the 1971 War of Liberation, said: “...our past, present and future are, indeed, interlinked” and “ We are happy that the bonds of friendship have grown from strength to strength with time.”
The foreign minister said: “The visit of Prime Sheikh Hasina to India “will certainly add much value.”
Mr. Ali also said that in the last three years, “we have experienced remarkable progress in many areas, namely, security, connectivity, development cooperation, cultural exchange, power, trade and commerce, defence exchange and so on.”
“The security cooperation together with our collective fight against terrorism and violent extremism continue to play an important role in achieving peace, stability and security in the region and beyond,” he said.
The excerpts :
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is going to visit India after seven years on April 7, 2017 at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Is there any significance of the visit?
In recent years, the steady development of bilateral relationship between Bangladesh and India has been strengthened by exchange of high level visits. The visit by Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to Bangladesh in June 2015 was tremendously productive and took our relations to new heights. Our Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will be paying a return visit to India from 7 to 10 April 2017.
Our partnership is mature, broad and strong. In the last three years, we have experienced remarkable progress in many areas, namely, security, connectivity, development cooperation, cultural exchange, power, trade and commerce, defence exchange and so on. The security cooperation together with our collective fight against terrorism and violent extremism continue to play an important role in achieving peace, stability and security in the region and beyond.
Our two countries also share common commitment to advance regional and international cooperation including strengthening regional processes such as BIMSTEC, BBIN and BCIM.
Thus, our past, present and future are, indeed, interlinked. We are happy that the bonds of friendship have grown from strength to strength with time and today we are enjoying the best of relations.
This visit of Hon’ble Prime Sheikh Hasina to India will certainly add much value. This visit will make our relation even deeper and stronger. Through this visit, we are going to further broaden our cooperation in few new sectors like- Satellite and Outer space, Peaceful use of nuclear energy, information and communication technology, cyber-security, defence etc.
The visit is surely going to be an important one, and you naturally expect positive results. What outcome you expect from the high profile visit?
The State visit itself and the hosts of events that will be taking place during the visit are the testimonies to strong bilateral relations between our two countries. Moreover, the highlights of the visit are:
a) For the first time, we are recognizing the extraordinary contribution and sacrifice made by the Indian soldiers during our Liberation war in 1971.
b) Second, we will be raising all water related issues including sharing of common rivers. We also would like to further discuss the Padma-Ganges Barrage project and basin-wide management of our water resources to the benefit of our two peoples.
c) Third, we are also undertaking more connectivity initiatives including joint implementation of space and satellite programmes, information and communication technology, cyber-security, peaceful use of nuclear energy etc.
The bilateral ties between Bangladesh and India have taken a new positive turn since 2009. How do you evaluate the relations in 2017?
I have already mentioned that since assuming the office, the present government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has put utmost importance on improving relationship with all its neighbours. Bangladesh believes that peaceful and stable relationship with a neighbour is a prerequisite for internal stability of a country and for engaging with them in a forward looking manner.
Bangladesh does not tolerate terrorism or anti-state activities in any form and will not allow its soil to be used against the interest of any country. Starting in 2009, Bangladesh has addressed India’s security concerns. Our commitment has been amply demonstrated in the past eight years through our tough and decisive actions. On the trade front, our bilateral trade volume has increased to over 6.4 billion US dollars. We have taken a number of collaborative projects in infrastructure and connectivity, which are important for the growth of our economies.
All these have brought a transformational change in our relationship. Trust and confidence between our countries and our leadership have also increased manifold. As a result, people to people links have got a tremendous boost, which is manifested by the fact that 1.3 million Bangladeshi citizens visited India last year and in fact Bangladesh nationals became the single largest tourist group in India. This is how it should be.
In essence, our relations have reached a new height and we are enjoying best of relations at this moment.
The contribution of India, its people in general and defence and security forces in particular, was inseparable part of Bangladesh’s independence history. Is Bangladesh going to honour those Indian soldiers who embraced martyrdom in 1971 during the PM visit? How many of them will be honored?
Yes, I have already mentioned that Bangladesh is going to honour those Indian heroes who sacrificed their lives. Valiant members of the Indian Armed Forces fought shoulder to shoulder with our freedom fighters in the final stages of the Liberation War- their blood mingled with the blood of our Mukti Bahini. By honouring them during the visit of Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, we are indeed acknowledging their supreme sacrifice in our Liberation War. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will personally hand over “Liberation War Honour” crest and a citation to next of kin of 7 Indian martyrs of 1971. In all we will honour 1661 Indian martyrs in phases.