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Friday, November 14, 2014, Kartik 30, 1421, Muharram 20, 1436 Hijr

'Bangladesh-India relations now time-tested'
Observer Online Desk
Publish Date : 2014-11-14,  Publish Time : 17:49,  View Count : 34
India-Bangladesh relations have withstood "the test of time", setting a "precedent" for other regional countries "to emulate," the foreign minister has said.

"The relationship is on the upswing," Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali said on Friday, citing examples of engagements even after a regime change in Delhi.

Opening the first-ever India-Bangladesh High Commissioners' summit at Dhaka University, he said he believed that "despite ups and downs in the past, the relationship has reached a point from where it can only blossom."

"There is no end to further strengthening of our relations."

Past and present high commissioners of India and Bangladesh have joined the meet to share experiences and offer insights into India-Bangladesh relations.

The Department of International Relations, Dhaka University, is co-hosting the event, styled ‘India-Bangladesh High Commissioners’ Summit’, with the India Bangladesh Foundation.

The foreign minister described the initiative as being "brilliant and unique".

He highlighted the historical background of India-Bangladesh relations, telling the envoys that they were "the living testament of Bangladesh-India relations and rare witnesses to a history in the making".

"You have seen how the relationship began, and how it evolved and flourished over the years," the diplomat-turned-politician said.

He also shared his own experiences of working with many of them.

He said, since its inception, India-Bangladesh relations had gradually reached "a complex, multi-dimensional and comprehensive realm."

"As it grew, it has had significant bearing on the region and beyond."

"We are constantly venturing into newer areas of cooperation which would have appeared impractical even a decade ago," he said, referring to the past five years' engagements.

"This has set a precedent for other countries in the region to emulate. It also signifies the width, depth and the level of confidence in our bilateral relations," he said.

He said there would always be issues between neighbours, and Bangladesh and India were "no exceptions."

But he said their resolution was possible if they were approached with an "open mind".

"We are hopeful of settling the other pending issues which would add a new dimension to the relations", he said, citing an "amicable" settlement of the maritime boundary delimitation issue.

He, however, did not mention any specific problems in the relationship.

"Relations between Bangladesh and India have withstood the test of time."

"Today, the entire world is interested in our relationship," the foreign minister said.

He recalled India’s support in the 1971 war of independence, and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s prophesy after his visit to India that "Bangladesh and India would live in eternal friendship as brothers."

He said, unfortunately, after Bangabandhu's assasinaiton, bilateral relations took "a different path."

"It again picked up and gathered momentum after the Awami League-led government assumed office in 1996 and later in 2009," he said.

He said the 2010 and 2011 visits of the two prime ministers gave "a new direction" to the relationship.

He referred to engagements following those visits and said the relations attained "a new maturity based on the appreciation, respect and understanding of each other's perspectives, concerns and priorities which has put the relationship on a solid footing."

"It continues to thrive" even after the regime change in Delhi, he said referring to exchange visits soon after formation of the new government.

He also referred Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement of recognising Bangabandhu as the founder of Bangladesh and Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina as its "saviour".

"It demonstrates the BJP government's positive attitude towards Bangladesh and its government.

"All these clearly show that the relationship is on the upswing," he said, adding, that "There is no denying the fact that our mutual interests can be best served by strengthening our relations."

He said strengthening relations with the “immediate neighbours” was integral to the foreign policy of the present Bangladesh government, reciprocated by the new Indian government.

"Our bilateral policies with our neighbours are specially geared towards complementing and consolidating our ‘neighbourhood policy’ and ‘regional policy’ as well as the policy to work towards peace and development."

"We are working with some of the neighbouring countries to explore certain areas of cooperation in the sub-regional context.

"Once realized, I believe, it would bring prosperity to the sub-region as a whole," he said.

Given the common history, struggle and culture, he stressed on people-to-people interactions at the Track II level had "a supporting role to play."

Muchkund Dubey, who was the high commissioner to Dhaka from Oct 1979 to Oct 1982, I S Chadha, who served from Oct 1985 to Feb 1989, Deb Mukharji from March 1995 to July 2000, Veena Sikri from Dec 2003 to Nov 2006, Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty from Jan 2007 to Dec 2009 and Rajeet Mitter from Dec 2009 to Oct 2011, joined the summit.

Former Bangladesh envoys who served in New Delhi and Kolkata Harun ur Rashid, CM Shafi Sami, Farooq Sobhan, Humayun Kabir, Tariq Karim, and Mostafa Faruque Mohammad, among others, joined them in the summit.

The foreign minister hoped that the discussions would throw up "important ideas and thoughts" for the foreign policy makers of both countries.

Dhaka University Vice Chancellor Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique spoke, among others, at the inauguration.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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