Hon’ble Minister of State for Cultural Affairs of Bangladesh H.E. Mr K M Khalid,
Hon’ble Members of Parliament of Bangladesh H.E. Mr Hasanul Haq Inu and H.E. Ms Simeen Hussain
High Commissioner of Bangladesh to India H.E. Mr Muhammad Imran,|
Director General of ICWA Ambassador Vijay Thakur Singh,
Former High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh, Ambassador Rajeet Mitter,
Other esteemed panelists - Asian Confluence Director, Mr Sabyasachi Dutta and
The Economic Times Diplomatic Affairs Editor Mr Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury,
Joint Secretary (Bangladesh & Myanmar), Ministry of External Affairs, Smt. Smita Pant
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Namaskar and good afternoon.
It is a great honor for me to join you all in the celebration of ‘Maitri Diwas.’
2. Loosely translated, it means ‘Friendship Day.’ "Maitri”, however, has a much deeper connotation. It is a relationship that has a depth, and has a significance beyond the ordinary. It is a bond that has stood the test of time.
3. And so it is with the relationship between India and Bangladesh.
4. This day marks not just the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Bangladesh. It celebrates a unique relationship between two great nations and two great peoples.
5. It celebrates a common heritage.
6. It commemorates a great joint struggle.
7. It highlights our shared aspirations.
8. 50 years ago, the people of Bangladesh were engaged in a mighty struggle. They fought to liberate themselves, in one of the great movements in history, from a vicious regime.
9. India is privileged to have played a role in this struggle for independence. India is privileged that it could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Bangladesh in their most difficult moments.
10. India shared their joy when the people of Bangladesh emerged from this struggle as a victorious people and a free nation.
11. India shared the sorrows of those who paid, and were to pay, the ultimate price for victory.
12. India saluted the leadership of Bangabandhu, one of the great historical figures of our time, and a man who literally shaped the destiny of nations.
13. India recognized Bangladesh as a free and independent nation while it was still fighting its war of liberation. It was the second country in the world to do so. It was a leap of faith. India did so because it was convinced of the righteousness of the Bangladeshi cause, and the certainty that it would prevail.
14. Maitri Divas marks all of this and more. It marks the trust that our nations and peoples have in each other. It signifies the faith that both nations and peoples have in a better tomorrow and exhibits the shared determination to work towards it.
15. That the Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh decided to designate this historic day as ‘Maitri Diwas’ demonstrates the resilience, the durability and the strength of our bonds. It honors, and consecrates, the memory of the shared struggle and the continued solidarity between our two nations.
16. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his message on the occasion of Maitri Diwas today, recalled and celebrated the foundations of our 50 years of friendship and looked forward to working with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to further expand and deepen our ties.
17. That India and Bangladesh are together celebrating this day, not just in Dhaka and New Delhi, but in 18 capitals across the world, confirms that the bonds are not just strong. It confirms and conveys the shared optimism for the future and the certainty that they will endure and grow.
18. India and Bangladesh, driven by the aspirations and values of their peoples, are upwardly mobile nations. Both countries are democracies that have consistently growing and diversifying economies.
19. This is a good occasion to draw attention to Bangladesh’s successes in its economic journey. Its most recent success is its ascent from LDC status. According to the United Nations, only 6 countries have made this transition in the last 50 years. Bangladesh is amongst the handful of other countries that will cross this milestone in the immediate future.
20. India salutes this considerable achievement.
21. We have, as we did in their war of liberation, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Bangladesh in this battle for better lives and prosperity for our peoples. Our good wishes will constantly accompany them in this continuing journey. We are and will remain fellow travelers in this road. India will make not just its goodwill, but its resources, and its capabilities, available to further the common good of our two nations.
22. More recently, India and Bangladesh fought the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic together. Our Prime Ministers attended the video conference of South Asian leaders in March 2020 on combating this challenge. They contributed to an Emergency Fund. Senior healthcare professionals and practitioners from both countries have shared experiences and information, formally and informally, and continue to do so.
23. Bangladesh was one of the first destinations for Indian vaccines. The Oxygen Express between India and Bangladesh is another example of our solidarity in the face of this health disaster.
24. Bangladesh was the destination of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first visit after the disruptions and lockdowns of the pandemic. He traveled to Bangladesh in March this year as the Chief Guest at the celebrations to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the creation of Bangladesh.
25. This occasion was one of a "triveni”. The two other events that were being commemorated were the birth centenary of the founding father of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and of the event that we also celebrating today - 50 years of India-Bangladesh diplomatic relations.
26. The President of India will participate in the golden jubilee Victory Day celebrations in Dhaka on 16 December.
27. It is the first visit by the President after the pandemic.
28. The President of India, Prime Minister of India and External Affairs Minister will have visited Bangladesh in the course of this year.
29. This signifies the highest importance that we accord to our relationship with Bangladesh.
30. The message from Prime Minster Sheikh Hasina adds to the historic nature and solemnity of today’s commemoration.
31. The visionary leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have provided strategic guidance, and weight, in shaping the contemporary and future trajectory of the India-Bangladesh relationship.
32. India and Bangladesh today share a relationship that is stronger, more diversified and mature.
33. Like in all strong relationships, there have been challenges. The period after the horrific assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on 15 August 1975, had its difficulties.
34. We have faced other complex and troubling situations.
35. These have been tackled, and continue to be tackled, in the framework of mutual trust and cooperation, transcending a conventional strategic partnership, between our countries.
36. India deeply appreciates Bangladesh’s decision to erect a memorial to honour the 1660, and more, Indian soldiers who laid down their lives fighting for the cause of Bangladesh. This gesture is deeply appreciated by their surviving and serving comrades in the armed forces and by the families of these gallant warriors.
37. It is a matter of particular satisfaction that we are joined today by veterans of the war. To them belongs a rare satisfaction – that of witnessing, through the continuing friendship and partnership between our nations, the good that came from their victory.
38. Their sacrifices, and of those who died, were not in vain.
39. They are joined by others from different walks of life who have worked on strengthening this relationship over the last five decades.
40. India has conferred some of its highest civilian honours on a few of them recently.
41. This goodwill has provided the foundations on which a record of innovative diplomatic solutions to bilateral issues is slowly and surely being constructed.
42. With the signing and ratification of the Land Boundary Agreement in 2015 and the demarcation of the maritime boundary, both nations have unlocked the potential for expanding cooperation in joint management of the border and Blue Economy.
43. This is also the spirit that underlies the transformational growth of connectivity between the two countries. Five of the six railway linkages between the two countries, that existed prior to 1965, have been revived. The sixth will soon be revived. An additional railway line is being built to link Akhaura with Agartala.
44. India and Bangladesh share the Bay of Bengal and 54 rivers. These are being exploited to create a low-carbon footprint connectivity through waterways and coastal shipping. Cargo, for example, can now move to Agartala from Kolkata via Chattogram.
45. India and Bangladesh are linked through power grids. A common energy market is emerging. Over 1100 MW of power now moves across the border. India and Bangladesh are cooperating in power generation, including, but not exclusively, through the flagship 1320 MW Maitree Super Thermal Power Project.
46. India and Bangladesh have cooperated in nuclear power generation.
47. Bangladesh has joined the International Solar Alliance. Cooperation in renewable power is a distinct possibility.
48. India and Bangladesh will soon be linked through hydrocarbon pipelines.
49. Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia. India is the second largest trade partner of Bangladesh. Despite the pandemic, bilateral trade grew at an unprecedented rate of 14% from USD 9.46 billion in FY 2019-20 to USD 10.78 billion in FY 2020-21.
50. Bangladesh’s exports to India have now crossed the US$ 1 billion mark.
51. Post-pandemic realities are emerging.
52. India and Bangladesh will cooperate increasingly, as the pandemic cooperation between healthcare professionals has shown, in the digital space. A newer generation will find newer issues to work on. Fintech, digital payment solutions and digital enablers fostered by programmes, such as the JAM – Jan Dhan, Aadhar, Mobile – trinity, UPI, digital, India Stack are future areas of cooperation. IT parks are being build in 12 districts in Bangladesh to further cooperation in this domain.
53. Healthcare has always been an important area of bilateral engagement. Contemporary initiatives, such as Ayushman Bharat and Jal Jeevan, provide newer areas to work together.
54. India and Bangladesh, I am sure, will cooperate in building a green economy through climate action and ambition.
55. The protection and management of shared spaces such as Sundarbans has upsides for both.
56. India will continue to work with Bangladesh on facilitating the movement of people and goods through better border infrastructure and policy frameworks.
57. India will also continue to work with Bangladesh on a peaceful and stable border through better border management and security cooperation. Improved border infrastructure is helping border guarding forces keep the border safe including through joint patrolling and real time exchange of information.
58. India will endeavor to remain a trusted development partner for Bangladesh. It is the largest single destination for Indian development partnership resources. More than a third of India’s total soft loans, through concessional lines of credit, are deployed with Bangladesh. Credits worth more than US$ 10 billion on the ‘softest’ terms have been extended. This is indicative of our priorities.
59. Defence cooperation, already being supported by increased interaction, and a USD 500 million Defence Line of Credit, is being scaled up. Interoperability, maritime security cooperation and ensuring sustainable use of maritime resources are emerging as areas of cooperation.
60. India and Bangladesh are working on these and other areas through constructs such as IORA, BIMSTEC and the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium.
61. People-to-people contact has continued to increase exponentially. The greatest number of visitors to India is from Bangladesh.
62. Indians and Bangladeshis are meeting and building more friendships and partnerships in academic settings, in health-care, in intellectual spaces, through business ties, in pilgrimage locations and in tourist destinations.
63. A Kolkata-Dhaka Dialgoue is being institutionalized. More dialogues are being organized under the BIMSTEC and BBIN frameworks. A Bangabandhu Chair has been established in Delhi University.
64. Both countries share a strong commitment to counter destabilizing forces that aid and abet terrorism and radicalization. Strengthening cooperation in tackling new and emerging challenges, such as misinformation and disinformation through the internet, is of highest importance. Effective cooperation between both countries will go a long way in preserving social harmony.
65. For people of my generation, the 1971 war is an indelible part of our lived experience. The Pakistani Army’s genocidal atrocities in East Bengal in March 1971 resulted in over 3 million people being killed and countless violated with horrific brutality. Over 10 million people from East Bengal took refuge in India.
66. Today, in a similar humanitarian gesture, Bangladesh hosts over a million displaced persons from across the border. India joins the international community in appreciating this powerful statement.
67. It is a source of great satisfaction to participate in today’s event and to acknowledge the spirit that it represents.
68. It gives us faith – the same faith that infused our predecessors in 1971 – in the friendship between our peoples and nations.
69. It also gives us confidence that the next fifty years of our shared journey will bring us even greater satisfaction.
Jai Hind, Joy Bangla.