Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday suggested further integrating economies of Bangladesh and India to consolidate the global and regional value chains cashing on the available synergies.
“I believe both our countries can move up the global and regional value chains by further integrating our economies taking advantage of available synergies,” she told her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in an India-Bangladesh virtual summit.
Describing the ongoing connectivity initiatives between the two next-door neighbours as catalysts in this regard, the premier said, “A prime example is the resumption of Chilahati-Haldibari rail link which we will inaugurate today.”
Sheikh Hasina led the Bangladesh delegation from her official Ganabhaban residence in the capital while Narendra Modi led the Indian delegation joining the meeting online from New Delhi.
Turning to growing dependency of economies of the two friendly countries, she said, “We happily recognise the growing mutual dependency of the economies of Bangladesh and India. A good number of Indian nationals are employed in the manufacturing and service sector of Bangladesh and are remittance earners for India. On the other hand, India receives its highest number of tourists and medical patients from Bangladesh.”
The PM said that relations between Bangladesh and India have embarked on a landmark moment, adding, “Yesterday (Wednesday), Bangladesh celebrated 50 years as an independent nation. Bangladesh and India have also stepped into the 50th year of establishment of diplomatic relations.”
“Further, we are celebrating the 100th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Just a few months ago, we concluded celebrations of the 150th birth anniversary of your Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi,” she said.
“In Bangladesh, we released a special postal stamp as a mark of tribute to Bapuji. I understand today we will be inaugurating a stamp issued by the Postal Department of India in honour of Bangabandhu,” she added.
Sheikh Hasina conveyed her sincere gratitude to the Indian premier and the Indian government for “so spontaneously coming together to mark these important occasions” with joint celebrations. “We have chalked out joint programmes throughout the coming year in cities worldwide, to commemorate our inseparable linkages in Bangladesh’s Liberation War of 1971.”
“The crowning glory of our joint commemoration would be your presence in Dhaka for the celebrations on 26th March 2021,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina recalled her last meeting with Narendra Modi in October 2019 at the grand Hyderabad House in New Delhi, saying, “Much has changed since then. The world has witnessed an upheaval and mankind’s ability to counter the unknown has been put to the test. Millions of lives have been lost, livelihoods destroyed, economies slowed down, societies disrupted.”
“Perhaps the most stark manifestation of the COVID-19 pandemic is that people to people contacts have been forced to a standstill. Our hopes to welcome you in Dhaka earlier this year could not be fulfilled.” she continued.
“Yet, I commend the manner in which concerned authorities on both sides have taken forward our bilateral cooperation during these trying times, as per directives of our last Summit,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina mentioned that throughout 2020 they witnessed a number of initiatives such as trade through rail routes, high level visits and meetings, capacity-building initiatives, the first trial run of Indian cargo from Kolkata to North-East India and of course, cooperation on COVID-19.
Commending Narendra Modi for the manner in which his government has countered the COVID-19 in one of the world’s most affected and populated zones, she said, “Apart from the health care packages, the economic packages introduced under your initiative of “Atmanirbhar Bharat” is admirable.”
“We believe India will play an even more important role in the global economy through your policies taken,” said the Bangladesh Prime Minister.
In Bangladesh also, her government has introduced stimulus packages to the tune of 14.14 billion US dollars to offset the economic and social impacts of the pandemic, she said, adding that the government has expanded social safety-net coverage providing assistance to more than 25 million people since detection of the virus in early March.
Sheikh Hasina said extensive measures have been put in place to contain the second wave of the pandemic. “As a result, our economy has sustained an upward growth trend, despite widespread disruptions in the international supply chains and decline in consumer demand,” she said.
She paid rich tribute to members of the Indian armed forces martyred in the 1971 Liberation War and the government and people of India who extended their whole-hearted support for the cause of Bangladesh’s liberation.