South Asian leaders joined in the 10-day celebrations held in Dhaka on the occasion of the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence and the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The heads of state and government of the five South Asian countries expressed their firm commitment to take bilateral relations with Bangladesh to a higher level. Among the guests were Maldives president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Sri Lankan prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Nepalese president Bidya Devi Bhandari, Bhutanese prime minister Lotey Tshering and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.
In addition, US president Joe Biden, Russian president Vladimir Putin, UK prime minister Boris Johnson, Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga, Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan and many other state leaders and representatives of international organisations wished Bangladesh success and increased cooperation in the golden jubilee of the country's independence.
The golden jubilee of independence of any country is a significant event. This is even more significant for Bangladesh because the country won independence through a bloody liberation war 50 years ago. At the time, some world leaders had made negative remarks about our beloved motherland. They were also very sceptical about the future of Bangladesh. After 50 years, the world is recognising the development of Bangladesh. It is really a big achievement on the 50th anniversary of a country.
Although South Asian leaders came to attend the golden jubilee of independence, their activities were not limited to the official events. They discussed various aspects of bilateral relations. Memorandums of understanding have been signed on various issues. Each of the leaders emphasised the need to increase interaction and trade among the South Asian countries in order to move forward together. In response, prime minister Sheikh Hasina also emphasised building a prosperous, dynamic and developed South Asia.
Among the five countries mentioned, our means of communication with Sri Lanka and Maldives are by sea and air. A significant number of Bangladeshi workers work in the Maldives. In that case both countries will benefit if there is direct air communication between Dhaka and Male. Among the South Asian countries, Sri Lanka is ahead in human resources. We can use their experience in various fields including readymade garments, healthcare and so on.
The other three countries are India, Nepal and Bhutan, members of the sub-regional alliance Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal Initiative (BBIN). We have a long land and maritime boundary with India. Land and maritime disputes have been resolved through mutual discussions and international arbitration. The enterprising role of Bangladesh in this regard is appreciated abroad. The Chilahati-Haldibari passenger rail link was launched on the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence. Earlier, freight railway connectivity was launched on the same route. This is definitely good news.
Communication is expanding not only by railway but also by land and sea. Landlocked Nepal and Bhutan have expressed interest in using Bangladesh's seaports and airports for trade. Connecting the four countries by sea, land, air and railway will ensure expanding international trade as well as maximising the use of electricity and water resources.
The leaders of the South Asian countries need to understand that in order to increase bilateral or multilateral engagement, the remaining issues also need to be resolved quickly. Sustainable relationships cannot be expected unless the problems are resolved.