'Bangladesh to gain by helping northeast India develop'
Published: 2014-05-04 09:52:21.0 BdST Updated: 2014-05-04 09:52:21.0 BdST
Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali says development of India’s north-eastern region would also benefit Bangladesh.
“It will ultimately be a win-win situation for all of us,” Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali told a seminar in Dhaka on Saturday.
Bangladesh Itihash Sammilani, an organisation of historians, organised the seminar on Bangladesh’s liberation war 1971 and the relations with north-eastern Indian states.
The minister recalled the contribution of the north-east states to the cause of Bangladesh's liberation in 1971 when he said 'millions of our people' took refuge in Tripura, Meghalaya and Assam besides West Bengal.
He said lot of development took place after the independence and “we are playing an important role in this region’s economic development, peace and stability”.
He cited Bangladesh’s steps on establishing more rail and road connectivity with the Indian north-eastern states and said the region comes as “an important link of connectivity” as part of Bangladesh’s plan to be bridge between South Asia and South-East Asia and beyond”.
The proposed BCIM (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar) economic corridor will pass through northeast India after originating in Kolkata and passing through Bangladesh before it enters Myanmar and finally China's Yunnan province.
This regional corridor is felt to be a game-changer for the economy of all four countries.
Mahmood Ali said Bangladesh had already requested India to allow opening a Deputy High Commission in Guwahati and upgrade its Agartala Visa Office to an Assistant High Commission to increase diplomatic and commercial presence in the north-east.
He said there would be direct air link between Dhaka and Guwahati soon.
“We need to complement India’s endeavour to develop its north-eastern states in our own interest”.
He said the development of north-east also has “an important security dimension which we should not lose sight of”.
He also reminded that Bangladesh had already contributed to north-east’s power sector development “by allowing transportation of heavy equipment for Tripura’s Palatana Power Plant through our territory”.
Tripura's Left government in return agreed to supply 100MW of electricity to Bangladesh from Palatana , which , Mahmood Ali, has now been cleared by India.
“Once grid connectivity between the two countries is established for this purpose, it will open up more opportunities for exchange of power,” he said.
He said bridge over Feni river, rail connectivity between Akhaura and Agartala and development of Ramgarah-Sabroom link were some of the “small links in the bigger picture of an inter-connected region that we strive for”.
This message, the foreign minister said, had been conveyed during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Agartala in Jan 2012.
He said Bangladesh also proposed direct bus services between Dhaka-Shillong and Dhaka-Guwahati on the model of the Dhaka-Agartala bus service.
He said the “abundance” of natural resources in India’s north-east region has “huge economic potentials that remained to be tapped”.
“Due to our geographical contiguity, we are in the best position to do so,” he said.
“Their natural resources and raw materials can be imported to Bangladesh for value addition and re-exported to India or elsewhere.
“This is taking place but needs to be done on a much larger scale,” he said.
He advised businessmen of both sides to think about more investment in the region in different sectors.
The minister said Bangladesh attaches “highest importance” to its relationship with India that he said was based on “historical, cultural, linguistic, religious, ethnic and social ties”.
“India also recognises that a stable and economically robust Bangladesh is in its own interest”.
He said this “mutual respect and understanding” of each other’s concerns had put the relationship on “a solid footing”.
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