Prime Minister Narendra Modi today began a two-day trip to Bangladesh, his first foreign visit after the coronavirus pandemic broke out. In a special op-ed published in leading Bangladesh newspaper The Daily Star ahead of the visit, PM Modi writes about a joint march towards a golden future where people could “study, work, do business effortlessly across the subcontinent”. He also talks about resolving complex bilateral issues “in a spirit of good neighbourliness”.
India and Bangladesh have made good progress in connectivity, says the PM, referring to plans like Bangladeshi barges travelling all the way to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
“Cargo from Bangladesh can move to Nepal and Bhutan through India. We are in the process of implementing a similar arrangement for Indian cargo to reach India’s North Eastern States through Bangladesh. We are making concerted efforts to operationalise our inland waterways, which will allow Bangladesh barges to reach all the way to Varanasi and Sahibganj in India.”
He talks about the completion of projects like the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline and the Akhaura-Agartala rail link.
The Prime Minister also pays rich tribute to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s first President and the father of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, writing on how the subcontinent would have evolved had “Bangabandhu” not been assassinated in 1975. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed along with most of his family members at his home. His daughters, Sheikh Rehana and Sheikh Hasina survived because they were abroad.
“It is a safe bet that with Bangabandhu at the helm, Bangladesh and our region would have evolved along a very different trajectory,” PM Modi writes.
Talking about Bangladesh rising from the ashes of a painful war at the time, he says: “If this had continued, perhaps India and Bangladesh could have achieved many decades ago some of the accomplishments that we were able to reach only recently… For instance, India and Bangladesh were able to finally overcome the complications of history through the 2015 Land Boundary Agreement. It was a historic moment in the history of modern nation-states. But had Bangabandhu been at the helm longer, this achievement may have come much earlier.”
The Prime Minister says the two countries could have built a closely integrated economic region, with deeply interlinked value-chains spanning food processing to light industry, electronics and technology products to advanced materials and set up mechanisms to share meteorological, maritime and geological data to protect against the impact of natural disasters.
“Most of all, imagine a scenario wherein our people could study, work, and do business effortlessly across this subcontinent-the world’s largest pool of young people joining their energies to create wealth, innovation and drive new technologies. This would have been the most natural vaccine against the toxic infusion of radicalism, violent extremism and hatred in our societies,” writes PM Modi.
“And yet today, it is possible in this dawn of a new and rising Bangladesh to believe that this future is once again within our grasp. With growing income and prosperity, Bangladesh is progressively realising the dream of Bangabandhu, under the able leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. It is time to once again chart a bold ambition for our partnership, as Bangabandhu would have done. With the spirit and enterprise of our people as our Bhagya Vidhata, the dispenser of our shared destiny, such a future is closer than ever.”
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