BD, India need to survive, prosper together, he says
Indian High Commissioner Pankaj Saran on Monday said his country’s ‘policy’ towards and ‘interests’ about Bangladesh would remain unchanged in case of changes in Indian government as both neighbours need to ‘survive and prosper together’.
“Every country has interests and those interests really don’t change over time,” the diplomat told a country lecture while responding to a question what will happen to Bangladesh-India relations after the ongoing national election in India.
India, the world’s largest democracy, went into nine-phased parliamentary elections today.
Pankaj said a policy is the functioning of a country’s interests, and the interests remain more or less constant. “I would suppose that the policy would also remain constant.”
He elaborated it further saying as long as the fundamentals of the relationship are strong, as long as the two country’s interests remain constant, as long as both countries have a general understanding of what need to do, the policy will have to continue to remain very much the same.
Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) arranged the country lecture titled ‘India and India-Bangladesh Relations’ held its auditorium in the city.
BIISS Director General Maj Gen Shafiuddin Ahmed also spoke on the occasion with Chairman of BIISS Board of Governors Munshi Faiz Ahmad in the chair. Scholars, members of academia and policymakers participated in the open discussion sessions.
The Indian diplomat said India wants to continue to build a stronger relationship with Bangladesh, no matter which government is in power in Bangladesh, too. “In other words, we’ll proceed in our relations with Bangladesh at a pace and in a manner that is convenient with and acceptable to the people of Bangladesh.”
Pankaj said there are negative feelings about both issues in Bangladesh but there are also positive dimensions in it.
“We know there’s a negative dimension; we regret we’ve not been able to agree on Teesta water sharing…it’s unfortunate we’ve not been able to ratify the LBA (Land Boundary Agreement),” he said.
Going back to history of LBA, he said there has been a progress if anyone looks at it from a certain point of view but the logical conclusion has to be ratification and implementation.
On the prospect of its ratification in post-election period, Pankaj said, “I think we just have to wait and see but I would say to you that as far as the government of India is concerned, we’re committed to its ratification, we’re committed to building the required political consensus in India to ensure that it is ratified.”
He mentioned that bill is currently in upper house of the parliament and it was placed in the upper house with a deliberate purpose so that it does not expire with the expiry of the term of the lower house.
“When the election is over and the new government comes then this bill shall continue to remain legally valid,” Pankaj added.
BCIM Economic Corridor
The Indian diplomat said his country is fully committed to the BCIM (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar) Economic Corridor.
“We’ve had some good meetings….I believe there’s another meeting which is scheduled to take place in June (Dhaka). We’re committed to working with all the countries,” he added.
Pankaj Saran said Bangladesh and India discussed the issue quite elaborately and set up a group under the joint rivers commission. “We’ve assured your government that India will do nothing which will adversely impact Bangladesh.”
Responding to a question on the current status of the project, he said, “My knowledge is that no construction has started.”
On trade issues, the Indian diplomat said Bangladesh’s export to India is on the rise though there is a trade imbalance as it is heavily tilted towards India. “We want to give Bangladesh a national treatment (in terms of BD products to India). So, you’ve equal level of field,” he said.
Pankaj said the ‘narrowness’ of Bangladesh’s export basket is a problem which creates the trade imbalance. “The export basket needs to be expanded. We’ll be happy to work with you.”
What needs to be done
Pnkaj said Bangladesh and India should continue to broaden the relationship beyond government and politics enhancing people-to-people contact further. “We need to know and understand each other better.”
He said India wants to see a strong, stable and prosperous Bangladesh saying it is not only important for the interest of Bangladesh but also for the interest of India and the region. “We should not allow a few to hold a nation hostage to instability.”
Pankaj, however, said cooperation on security issues does not mean sacrificing sovereignty.
He observed the circles of engagement between India and Bangladesh are expanding and India is trying to reach out to all section of Bangladesh societies for boosting ties. “India-Bangladesh relationship today touches almost every sphere of human activities,” Pankaj noted.
At the beginning of the lecture, Pankaj described an overview of today’s India, the state of current bilateral relations, and how both the countries look forward.
Source: UNB Connect