Virtual Summit: PM restates commitment to relations with India in glowing terms
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said Bangladesh and India can strengthen global and regional value chains through further integration of their respective economies to take advantage of available synergies.
“I believe both our countries can move up the global and regional value chains by further integrating our economies taking advantage of available synergies,” she said, in opening remarks at the Bangladesh-India Virtual Summit on Thursday morning.
“Our ongoing connectivity initiatives are catalysts in this regard,” said Sheikh Hasina adding that a prime example is the resumption of Chilahati-Haldibari rail link which was inaugurated at the summit.
“We happily recognise the growing mutual dependencies between the economies of Bangladesh and India,” she told her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.
A good number of Indian nationals are employed in the manufacturing and service sector of Bangladesh and are remittance earners for India. On the other hand, India receives its highest number of tourists and medical patients from Bangladesh, she added.
Noting that the relations between Bangladesh and India have embarked on a landmark moment, the Bangladesh Prime Minister said, “Yesterday, (Wednesday) Bangladesh celebrated 50 years as an independent nation. Bangladesh and India have also stepped into the 50th year of establishment of diplomatic relations.”
“Further, we are celebrating the 100th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Just a few months ago, we concluded the celebrations of the 150th birth anniversary of your (India's)Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi,” she said.
“In Bangladesh, we released a special postal stamp as a mark of tribute to Bapuji (Gandhi). I understand today (Thursday) we will be inaugurating a stamp issued by the Postal Department of India in honour of Bangabandhu,” she continued.
Sheikh Hasina conveyed her sincere gratitude to the Indian PM and his government for spontaneously coming together to mark these important occasions with joint celebrations. “We have chalked out joint programs throughout the coming year in cities worldwide, to commemorate our inseparable linkages in Bangladesh’s Liberation War of 1971.”
“The crowning glory of our joint commemoration would be your presence in Dhaka for the celebrations on 26th March 2021,” she said.
Recalling her last meeting with Narendra Modi in October 2019 at the grand Hyderabad House in New Delhi, Sheikh Hasina said much has changed since then. The world has witnessed an upheaval and mankind’s ability to counter the unknown has been put to the test, she said, coming to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Millions of lives have been lost, livelihoods destroyed, economies slowed down, societies disrupted. “Perhaps the most stark manifestation of the COVID-19 pandemic is that people to people contacts have been forced to a standstill. Our hopes to welcome you in Dhaka earlier this year could not be fulfilled,” the PM lamented.
"Yet, I commend the manner in which concerned authorities on both sides have taken forward our bilateral cooperation during these trying times, as per directives of our last Summit,” she said.
“Throughout 2020 we have witnessed number of initiatives such as trade through rail routes, high level visits and meetings, capacity-building initiatives, the first trial run of Indian cargo from Kolkata to North-East India and of course, cooperation on COVID-19,” she continued.
Sheikh Hasina commended Narendra Modi for the manner in which his government has countered COVID-19 in one of the world’s most affected and populated zones. Apart from his health care packages, the economic packages, introduced under his initiative of “Atmanirbhar Bharat,” are to be admired, she said.
“We believe India will play an even more important role in the global economy through your policies,” said the Bangladesh Prime Minister.
Her government has introduced stimulus packages to the tune of $14.14 billion to offset the economic and social impacts of the pandemic, while expanding social safety-net coverage to provide assistance to more than 25 million people since detection of the first cases in Bangladesh in early March.
Sheikh Hasina said extensive measures have been put in place to contain the second wave of the pandemic. “As a result, our economy has sustained an upward growth trend, despite widespread disruptions in the international supply chains and decline in consumer demand,” she said.
She paid tribute to members of the Indian armed forces martyred in the 1971 Liberation War and the government as well as the people of India who extended their whole-hearted support for the cause of Bangladesh's liberation.