Indian minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan has said there is a mutual desire to further strengthen the relationship between Bangladesh and India through cooperation in areas that can benefit the people in both nations.
“India and Bangladesh have scripted a golden chapter in our partnership under the visionary leadership of prime minister Modi and prime minister Sheikh Hasina," said the minister of state.
Muraleedharan was speaking at a webinar/digital conference on "Doing Business with Bangladesh: Opportunities and Challenges," organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry, the country’s apex trade body, on Monday.
He said that since 2014, there have been ‘major developments’ in the bilateral relationship, including the two countries having ratified the land boundary agreement, settled maritime boundary and signed agreements on connectivity.
"India has increased assistance to Bangladesh, making it the largest recipient of our concessional aid, implemented agreement to supply 1076 MW of power to Bangladesh, issued 7.4 million visas to Bangladesh nationals and implemented more than 40 projects in areas such as sanitation, waste management, restoration, health, etc. under grant-in-aid," said Muraleedharan.
He said he was certain that cooperation between the two nations can help overcome the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Muhammad Imran, Bangladesh high commissioner to India, mentioned that the Bangladesh-India bilateral relationship touched almost every sphere of activity including politics, trade, investment, security, border, water management, power, cultural exchanges, etc.
He said in the current COVID context, it is more imperative that the two countries complement and cooperate to bring about great benefit for both countries in areas where they have competitive advantage.
Riva Ganguly Das, Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh, emphasised that the geographical proximity and road and river connectivity through ports between the two countries provide many opportunities which they can leverage.
She mentioned that turning the COVID crisis into an opportunity, the Indian and Bangladesh railways have worked together to ensure smooth flow of goods through the railway links that exist between the two countries.
She noted that Bangladesh Railways had increased its monthly allocation of freight trains to Indian railways by almost a third, approximately 33 per cent, in June which she termed ‘very positive’.
Sheikh Fazle Islam, president, Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FBCCI), mentioned that FBCCI will be entering an MoU to further deepen the two countries’ bilateral economic relationship.
He said there is potential for joint R&D initiatives in the technologies of the future especially in the context of the COVID 19 crisis where ‘new manufacturing’ is becoming increasingly important.
Speaking at the conference, Sirazul Islam, executive chairman, Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), emphasised that energy, transport and logistics were emerging as promising sectors for India-Bangladesh economic cooperation.
The BIDA executive chairman also ran through a list of various reforms undertaken by the government in Dhaka or business facilitation in starting a business, construction permit, electricity, registering property and trading across borders.
David Rasquinha, MD, EXIM Bank of India mentioned that it was heartening to know that Bangladesh is projected to have a positive growth rate of 1.6 per cent amidst all other global economies which will experience a negative growth.
He emphasised that economic engagement between India and Bangladesh on a bilateral level continues to witness a very substantial increase in recent years.
Chandrajit Banerjee, director general of CII, mentioned “we, in Indian Industry, believe that a pandemic such as this only reinforces the need for us to work together and find solutions”.
While the SAARC fund promotes cooperation on a G2G basis, there is much that the private sectors of the two countries can do together. Indian industry would like to further boost its investments in Bangladesh.
Abdul Matlub Ahmad, president of the India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce & Industry (IBCCI) and MD of Nitol Group, said that the trade and economic relations between the two countries have been growing rapidly over the last few years.
This was then followed by a panel discussion on “Enhancing India – Bangladesh Trade and Investments” which was chaired by P Harish, additional secretary (ER) to India’s external affairs ministry.
Harish emphasised reducing the cost of doing business and also facilitating mutual investments between the two countries and creating value chains in various sectors including textiles, leather, footwear and food processing, among others.