'India and Bangladesh are interlinked like no other nations on earth': Mukherjee
Dhaka, Mar. 4 : Asserting that India and Bangladesh are interlinked like no other nations on earth, President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday said New Delhi remains committed to supporting the comprehensive development of Dhaka and the aspirations of its people.
"Our destinies are interwoven just like our history and our geography. Within our resources, India remains committed to supporting the comprehensive development of Bangladesh and the aspirations of its people. We believe that India and Bangladesh must develop and grow together, ensuring that our growth provides more opportunities to both our peoples," said President Mukherjee in his convocation address and acceptance speech at the University of Dhaka.
"We both face common challenges and, as Her Excellency, Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina has said, we have the same enemy - poverty. We need to work together to maximize the potential of our economic cooperation. Bangladesh is uniquely placed to exploit its natural and human resources to emerge as a fast growing, modern economy," he added.
President Mukherjee said 'apart from the potential of its resources on land and sea, the geographical location of Bangladesh is an advantage that must be fully explored and exploited'.
"Bangladesh lies at the cross-roads of South and South-East Asia. The idea of South Asian regional cooperation was born in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has once again taken the leadership in moving towards sub-regional cooperation. This will lead to practical results in terms of better water management, more electricity and grid connectivity, more trade and more cross-country movement of goods and people," said President Mukherjee.
"India and Bangladesh can lead the way towards greater integration within our region and beyond in South East Asia," he added.
President Mukherjee said the bilateral relations between New Delhi and Dhaka have received a major boost following the visit of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India in January 2010 and Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh's visit to Bangladesh in September 2011.
"We now have a "Framework Agreement on Cooperation for Development" that lays down the roadmap for our work together in the years to come. I am happy to note that both countries have made considerable progress in the implementation of the far-reaching decisions taken during these historic Visits. I assure you that India remains committed to implementing the decisions that have been taken," he added.
President Mukherjee said India and Bangladesh have vast opportunities to increase the bilateral trade and commerce.
"Government of India has taken the first step by removing quota and duty restrictions from all categories of imports from Bangladesh except twenty five tariff lines. Bangladesh now has duty-free access to our large market. I invite Bangladesh's industry to make full use of this opportunity. We are working with the Government of Bangladesh to remove the remaining non-tariff barriers, open more border haats and harmonise our respective standards," said President Mukherjee.
"The recently signed Revised Travel Arrangements between India and Bangladesh will lead to the liberalisation of visa arrangements between our countries. These will particularly help businessmen, students, journalists, tourists and those travelling for medical treatment. Greater people-to-people contacts and exchanges are the best way to bring our two countries even closer together," he added.
President Mukherjee also expressed his delight with the progress made in the implementation of the Line of Credit extended by the Indian Government to the Government of Bangladesh.
"Several development projects, especially those pertaining to the railways sector, are now beginning to take off. I was happy to see double decker buses purchased under the Line of Credit plying on the roads. Many new Indian locomotives and wagons will soon be on the rail lines of Bangladesh. We have offered a grant of 200 million US Dollars to Bangladesh for utilization in projects of priority to Bangladesh. The first tranche - of 50 million US Dollars of this grant - was handed over a few weeks ago," said President Mukherjee.
"Our countries have also made considerable progress in our co-operation in the power sector. The power grids of our countries will, for the first time in our post-independence history, be connected by the middle of this year. This will allow the flow of 500 MW of power from India to Bangladesh. The India-Bangladesh Friendship Power Company is setting up an ultra-modern super thermal 1320 MW power station at Rampal near Mongla to meet the energy needs of Bangladesh," he added.
President Mukherjee further said the Indian Government proposes to introduce a Constitutional Amendment Bill in Parliament to give effect to the provisions of the Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh and its 2011 Protocol.
"We are committed to working closely with Bangladesh to avoid any untoward incidents on our border. We can together make it a gateway of peace and mutually beneficial cooperation," said President Mukherjee.
"The sharing of the waters of our common rivers is a high priority for us. We have successfully forged agreements in the past and are hopeful of arriving at an early accord on the sharing of the Teesta waters," he added.
President Mukherjee also called for substantially increasing cooperation in areas, such as in information technology, skill development, agricultural research, environment protection, climate change, and in protecting the Sunderbans and harnessing energies, both traditional as well as new and renewable sources of energy.
"We must invest more in the field of education. There must be more exchanges of students, faculty, research scholars and academics between us. Government of India offers a large number of scholarships for students and professionals from Bangladesh. Many more students from Bangladesh are coming to India at their own cost to pursue higher studies," said President Mukherjee.
"The Indian Council for Cultural Relations has established a Tagore Chair and a Hindi Chair at Dhaka University. These have contributed to greater academic exchanges between India and Bangladesh," he added.
President Mukherjee said he was delighted to meet a 100-strong youth delegation, the first ever from Bangladesh, last year.
"Many of the students were from the Dhaka University. I am happy to note that a similar delegation will again visit India this year," he added.
Stating that there are few countries in the world where music, poetry, art and drama are as deeply ingrained in a nation's conscience as in Bangladesh, President Mukherjee said: " There is a lot that we, in India, can learn from you. I have the pleasure to announce that the Visva Bharati University at Santi Niketan will provide land within its campus to Bangladesh for the construction of 'Bangladesh Bhaban'."
"This will serve as a focal point for research and documentation under the 'Bangladesh Studies Programme' of Visva Bharati," he added.
President Mukherjee, who accepted the award of the Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa from Dhaka University, told the gathering that he is convinced that the future of Bangladesh is bright.
"I wish you all every success in making the dream of Sonar Bangla a reality. India will stand by your side as you shape the destiny of your country," said President Mukherjee.
"I once again thank the Dhaka University for inviting me to be among you all today. I take this opportunity of conveying, through you, the greetings of the people of India to the friendly people of Bangladesh," he added.