Talks on COVID-19 cooperation continue quietly: Indian High Commissioner

Indian High Commissioner Vikram DoraiswamiProthom Alo

Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh Vikram Doraiswami has said that India considers its relations with Bangladesh to be one of the main pillars of its foreign policy. India’s relations with no other country are as important as with Bangladesh.

He made these comments on Thursday afternoon while talking to the media. He was speaking to a number of newspersons after the virtual summit between prime minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.

Summing up the virtual conference between the prime ministers of the two neighbouring countries, Indian high commissioner Vikram Doraiswami told newspersons that prime minister Narendra Modi reiterated to prime minister Sheikh Hasina that relations with Bangladesh were of special importance to India.

India has been providing assistance under a credit agreement from one decade ago, but this has been moving at a slow pace. When asked about the issue discussed between the two top leaders, the Indian top diplomat said, of the funding India provides under credit agreements around the world, 30 per cent goes to Bangladesh. No other country is given the facilities provided under the credit conditions with Bangladesh.

He said that perhaps no country other than Japan provided Bangladesh with credit under such easy terms. There were some procedural problems, he added.

He (the Indian high commissioner) said that they were working with Bangladesh on how best to use the vaccine, the ways to store it, training and so on. Strategic discussions have been held on these matters over the past few months

Until a project is finalised and presented to us, it is not possible for us to release funds, he said. Both sides are working on accelerating the process. It will pick up pace in the coming months, he said, adding that project implementation would gain speed, centred on the Dhaka visit of prime minister Narendra Modi.

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When asked about cooperation in tacking coronavirus, the Indian high commissioner said, even though we have made no announcement, we have been quietly holding discussions in this regard with Bangladesh, as well as Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Mauritius in light of the experience of our best practices.

It is not that we have all the answers, he said, pointing out that the disease was a new one. He said that they were working with Bangladesh on how best to use the vaccine, the ways to store it, training and so on. Strategic discussions have been held on these matters over the past few months.

“We are ready to provide any assistance Bangladesh wants in this regard,” he said, adding that they were even willing to look into joint manufacturing of the vaccine if Bangladesh’s companies were interested.

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Regarding India’s role in the repatriation of Rohingyas, Vikram Doraiswami said, “If an environment conducive to the return of persons driven into Bangladesh from Rakhine is to be ensured, development assistance is required there. We are doing that. Not only us, but others are doing this too, including Japan. Our objective is to create an environment there so that the clashes among the local communities are dispelled.

"We realise this is a complex social issue in Myanmar. We want to assist in improving the situation there. We also support the repatriation efforts being made by Bangladesh and Myanmar with UN support, though we have no role in the process. We want the aim for a speedy, safe and sustainable repatriation to be fulfilled. We want the repatriation to be sustainable so that they do not have to return to Bangladesh again.”

Commenting on the relocation of Rohingyas to Bhasan Char, the Indian high commissioner said Bangladesh’s move to relocate them where facilities have been created, is justified. From the pictures, it seems the navy has created an extraordinary infrastructure there. It is better for them to be shifted from the camps to a place where the facilities are relatively better.

Concerning agreements about common rivers, except Teesta, Doraiswami said he hoped, in the interests of both countries, there would be positive progress in this regard within a few months before prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit.

Vikram Doraiswami said that prime minister Modi had requested prime minister Hasina to consider Bangladesh joining the BRICS Bank. If Bangladesh joined this bank build up by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, it could receive loans at discounted rates. He said prime minister Sheikh Hasina indicated a positive response towards the Indian prime minister’s offer.