Your Excellency Dr. Momen,
Friends from the Bangladesh media,
I am delighted to visit Bangladesh after a gap of nearly one-and-a-half years. And Dr. Momen it is a real pleasure to be with you today, and I can say your invitation was most timely.
As all of you know, we are working to prepare for the planned visit of our Prime Minister. It will surely be a very memorable visit: if I recall right it would be his first visit outside India since the Coronavirus pandemic and his second as Prime Minister to Bangladesh.
We know that this is a very special year for you, when both countries mark the Mujib Barsho, 50 years of Bangladesh’s Liberation and 50 years of our bilateral relationship.
These truly highlight the importance we attach to these three anniversaries, as well as the enormous regard that all of us have for your Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and for Bangladesh. Our relations actually transcend even our strategic partnership, and I believe that our bonding is central to the realization of a dream of a peaceful, prosperous and progressive South Asia. It is in pursuit of this vision that both sides have made remarkable progress in our relationship, especially since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assumption of office in May 2014.
The significance of our ties with Bangladesh lies in your centrality, Excellency, for our ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policy and your growing relevance for our ‘Act East’ Policy. We see Bangladesh as a key neighbour and a valued partner not only in South Asia but also in the broader Indo-Pacific region. Every outcome and achievement in our relationship resonates through this region. It is no secret that we cite it to others as an example for emulation.
And that is why we are working so hard to expand our relationship in all dimensions, ranging from security, trade, transport and connectivity, culture, people to people ties, energy, joint development of our shared resources and defence. Our comfort levels are now so high that we have shown that there is no issue that we cannot discuss and resolve through amicable dialogue.
It is a matter of satisfaction that despite the Covid pandemic, our interactions and consultations continued unabated. We have done a Virtual Summit in December last year, a Joint Consultative Commission which the two of us did in September, meetings of Foreign Secretaries, Power Secretaries, Home Secretaries, Police Chiefs, BSF-BGB and defence visits. Our Commerce, Water Resources and Shipping Secretaries are due to meet soon. This demonstrates the commitment of both sides to progress the relationship.
Even the pandemic has actually provided an opportunity to reaffirm our friendship. Bangladesh is the largest recipient of Made in India vaccines. Also among the friendship our largest gift of vaccines of 2 million, which is really appropriate that it is to Bangladesh.
Our recent activities go beyond consultations and gestures, however important they might be. We have made practical progress on the ground. Conducting a trial run of container cargo through Chattogram Port to Agartala, adding two new Protocol routes to inland waterways connecting Tripura to your national waterways, handing over 10 BG locomotives, commencing movement of container and parcel trains and forming a JV in the energy sector. These are but some recent examples.
I would also like to express our admiration and pride, as your closest neighbour and friend, at Bangladesh’s graduation from LDC status: it is truly a tribute to your miraculous socio-economic progress, and a reflection of the statesmanship and leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Let me conclude by wishing all our friends in Bangladesh the very best as you mark key anniversaries. May all your dreams come true and I can assure you that India will always be there by your side, as a reliable friend. Your marching contingent at our Republic Day Parade this January 26th, may have been a reaffirmation of our shared history. But I can also say that it is an expression of our deep solidarity that will always guide this relationship.
I thank you for your attention.