Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das has said, “Opportunities open for India in Bangladesh’s growth. Bangladesh’s continued growth of over 8 per cent, its achievements in various social indexes – all these are opportunities for us. We are proud of our neighbour Bangladesh.”
Riva Ganguly Das was speaking during a visit to the Prothom Alo office on Tuesday.
Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman received Riva Ganguly at the office in the afternoon. Other guests on the occasion included former Indian secretary Muchkund Dubey, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) chairman Rehman Sobhan, eminent political scientist Rounaq Jahan, CPD distinguished fellows Debapriya Bhattacharya and Mustafizur Rahman, president of Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Strategic Studies (BIPSS) ANM Muniruzzaman and senior journalists of Prothom Alo.
Speaking to this correspondent about relations between the two countries, Riva Ganguly said, “A lot of things have changed in the relations over the past 10 years, particularly over the past 5 years. There has been significant improvement. The long standing issues pertaining to the land boundary issue and the maritime boundary have been resolved.”
According to Riva Ganguly, relations between the two South Asian countries have expanded in many ways. Other than the business and trade relations, there has also been cooperation in the fields of science and technology, protecting the Sundarbans, nuclear since, information and communication technology and so on. There had been an impetus in the official interactions between the two countries.
Riva Ganguly Das said, there is presently good political understanding between the two countries. There are regular visits. Alongside the bilateral visits, the two top leaders of the respective countries also meet at multilateral forums. Bangladesh’s prime minister was one of the main guests at Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary celebrations in New York this September. The two leaders also met on the sidelines of the Indian Economic Summit in October. Sheikh Hasina also visited Kolkata in November as part of the cricket diplomacy between India and Bangladesh.
About lessening any imbalance between the two countries, Riva Ganguly said, Bangladesh’s trade with India has exceeded one billion US dollars, but there is still imbalance that needed to be addressed. There is need of diversification in trade between the two countries, she added. India has committed investment of 3 billion US dollars in Bangladesh. There is another 1 billion US dollars in the pipeline. There will be even greater investment when the Indian economic zone is set up in Mirserai, Chattogram.
The Indian high commissioner said, “There has been particular progress in railway, road and inland river communications. An agreement had been signed for the use of Chattogram and Mongla ports and now the process for its implementation is on. Use of the two ports will shortly begin on an experimental basis. I consider all these game changers in relations between the two countries.”
Placing importance on connectivity, she said “In view of our northeast states, this connectivity is very significant. There is a lot of opportunity for India in Bangladesh’s growth. Such noticeable growth, particularly the continuous 8 per cent growth, Bangladesh achievements in social indexes, all these are opportunities for us. We are proud of our neighbor Bangladesh.”
She continued, “Over 80 per cent of the projects under the three loan agreements with Bangladesh are for infrastructure. We plan to restart the railway connections which existed before 1965. When connectivity is enhanced through this, businesspersons will understand the vast opportunities this offers.”
About taking relations ahead between the people of the two countries, the Indian high commissioner said, “The visa process for Bangladesh’s citizens has been made much easier. There is the normal bond of language, culture and heritage. And the people of Bangladesh have a natural attraction for India when it comes to art and culture. With the start of medical visas, many more people are going to India. Just today alone we met the target of issuing 1.5 million visas. Three freedom fighters were given 5-year multiple visas. Large numbers of Bangladeshis are going to India for tourism, medical treatment, meeting family, business and so on.”