By Ayushi Agarwal
New Delhi [India], November 23 (ANI): Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan hailed the ties between New Delhi and Dhaka and said that the unprecedented support during the 1971 Liberation War was the root of the bonhomie between the two countries.
In an exclusive interview with ANI, Khan said, “I think our relationship should be viewed in the context of shared history, common heritage, cultural affinity, and identical social norms. India’s unprecedented support during the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh by providing military assistance, extending shelter to 10 million refugees, etc–was the root of the bonhomie between these two countries.”
“Over the years, the mutual respect for independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and strong political will from both sides contributed substantially to blossoming this bond,” he added.
Asaduzzaman Khan, who came to India to attend the Ministerial Conference of ‘No Money for Terror’ last week, met Home Minister Amit Shah on the sidelines of the meeting.
Speaking on the contentious issue of Teesta River water sharing, the Minister said that he hopes that the issue will be solved at the earliest.
“The sharing of the Teesta waters has been a longstanding demand of Bangladesh since the livelihood of millions is attached to the river’s water. In 2011, India agreed to share 37.5 per cent of Teesta waters while retaining 42.5 per cent of the waters during the lean season between December and March. However, the deal never went through due to internal problems in India. We hope it will be solved at the earliest as the sharing of the Teesta waters currently holds the key to improved India-Bangladesh relations,” he added.
The Teesta river dispute is an important point of bilateral talks between India and Bangladesh. Both countries signed an agreement in 2011 to share surface waters at the Farakka Barrage near their mutual border. Earlier during the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to New Delhi, she expressed hope that the issue of Teesta water sharing with India will be resolved soon.
Calling it the need of the hour to introspect on the strengths, and acknowledge the challenges, the Minister added that the cordial relationship has traversed a long way with many ups and downs.
“You know, December 2021 marked the 51st anniversary of Bangladesh-India relations, which began with India’s recognition of Bangladesh as a sovereign nation-state on December 6, 1971–just 10 days before the Liberation War ended. From the heyday of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to the current regime, the cordial relationship has traversed a long way with many ups and downs. It is the need of the hour to introspect the strengths, acknowledge the challenges and draw a roadmap to take this relationship to new heights”, said the Minister.
Further stressing the issue of border killings, the Minister said that though there is some discomfort over the border killings, the BSF and the BGB are working on the issue and that both sides agreed to undertake joint efforts to bring down the incidents of assault by intensifying public awareness campaigns.
“I do agree that the border has become a major strain on the bilateral engagement of our two countries. It can be reduced by adopting extra precautionary measures along the international border, increasing coordinated patrols, and enhancing vigilance and sincere commitments. BSF and BGB are working on this issue as both sides agreed to undertake joint efforts to bring down the number of incidents of assault or border crime by intensifying public awareness campaigns by undertaking appropriate socio-economic developmental programmes in vulnerable areas. I think both the countries should think of educating the border people about the sanctity and risk of international boundaries and preventing criminals or inhabitants from crossing the boundary”, said the Bangladesh Home Minister.
When asked how both Bangladesh and India are working to combat terrorism and extremism in the region, the Minister said that Bangladesh is committed not to allowing any group to use its land for militant activities and both countries have reaffirmed their strong commitment to combat and prevent the spread of terrorism.
“You know, during the visit of our honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India recently, both sides have reaffirmed their strong commitment to combat and prevent the spread of terrorism, violent extremism, and radicalization in the region. Following the historic land boundary agreement, we have seen that terrorist activities in India’s northeast region declined significantly. Bangladesh is committed to not allowing any group to use its land for militant activities. This stopped them from carrying out their operations in the North East”, the Minister said.
“Under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we all have realised that terrorism can harm them in the future too if not contained now”, he added.
Noting the bilateral potential between both countries, the Minister said that both sides have the potential to reach USD 16 billion in trade.
“I think both sides have the potential to reach USD 16 billion trade if we can improve ease of doing business and complete all connectivity developments. The bilateral trade situation is still in India’s favour but it is improving for Bangladesh as the country’s exports are increasing every year. There are difficulties and challenges which need to be addressed in the interest of both parties”, he said.
Calling ‘India’ the most important neighbour, the Minister also highlighted that under the leadership of both the leaders, PM Sheikh Haseena and PM Narendra Modi, the relationship between both countries has elevated the ties to a higher trajectory and that both the countries can explore the potential of a soft power interface.
“I am a strong believer in people-to-people and government-to-government connectivity between Bangladesh and India. It is the key to further strengthening the ties between the two countries. We need to explore the potential of a soft power interface between the two countries”, he said.
“One of the positive aspects of India-Bangladesh ties that deserve attention is the curiosity of the common people in each other’s matters. Bangladesh generates huge interest in the bordering Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, and parts of Assam and Meghalaya. India being the most important neighbour means the expectations of the people of Bangladesh are much higher. Both the countries led by two leaders, Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi, elevated India-Bangladesh ties to a higher trajectory and opened the floodgate of opportunities for enhancing cooperation in the arena of connectivity, education, culture, and tourism”, added the Minister. (ANI)