Destinies of India, Bangladesh closely interlinked: Indian envoy

Dhaka: Bangladesh, which shares border with five Indian states, has strategic importance for India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit would give an unambiguous thrust towards development of good relations between the two neighbours whose destinies are closely interlinked.

"With the new government in India, there is a very clear and unambiguous thrust towards development of good relations with our immediate neighbours and that context of the 'policy of neighbourhood first' provides the backdrop for the PM's visit to take place and move this very important relationship to a next level," Indian High Commissioner Pankaj Saran said.

He said the parliamentary ratification of the long outstanding Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) created the best possible setting for Prime Minister Modi's maiden visit to Bangladesh, which would roll out a red carpet welcome for him.

"As far as the visit is concerned, it comes against the backdrop of a very, very historic step by our government and
our parliament towards ratification of the 1974 LBA and its 2011 protocol," Saran told PTI ahead of Modi's two-day tour which begins tomorrow.

He said, "There could be no better setting for his visit to Bangladesh then government has taken and the manner our
parliament has spoken in one voice unanimously to approve an amendment to the constitution of India (ratifying the LBA)."

The officials said they have chalked up a hectic schedule according to which Modi would join the flagging off eremony of Kolkata-Dhaka-Shillong bus service and deliver a public lecture apart from holding talks with his counterpart Sheikh Hasina. He is also scheduled to visit the Dhakeswari National Temple, the Ramkrishna Mission, the National Memorial for 1971 martyrs and the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum, call on President Abdul Hamid and attend a state banquet.

Saran said India-Bangladesh relationship is one of the most important ties which India has with any neighbour "and
indeed any country in the world (while) the aspects of the relationship that makes is self-explanatory - the geography, history, culture and the location of both countries".

Asked what made India to lay an extra emphasis on ties with Dhaka, he said besides having borders with five Indian
states, Bangladesh is a littoral country of Bay of Bengal and it serves as the crossroads for the South Asia and Southeast Asia.

Bangladesh shares border with India's five states - West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. "How we develop our ties with Bangladesh has an impact on the welfare and the security of not just of Bangladesh but also of our North-East...These are the elements which make up the strategic importance of Bangladesh to India," he said.

"The destinies of both our countries are very closely interlinked... and we do not see our relations in the eyes of
others," he added.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh was the last Indian premier to visit Dhaka in 2011. "Over the last few years, we have made good progress in many, many sectors which has contributed to creating an environment in which we can be more ambitious and in which we can hope to look at newer areas of cooperation," Saran said.

Asked for comments on expected trade related agreements and engagements during Modi's tour, he said, "the agenda is large, comprehensive and I am sure when the two leaders will meet all the issues will be on the agenda, but for the concrete outcome, it will be appropriate to wait for the visit".

He said that when the two leaders meet, they add a new dimension and a new impetuous to the relationship and expected
the summit to create further scopes of bilateral cooperation in areas "where we have been already working very well and in those areas where we have differences or there are issues that are outstanding."

"So we are hopeful that we will be able to see such an impetuous coming out from this forthcoming visit," he said.
Saran, however, said he believed the tour to yield some policy directives towards implementing the LBA over a period
of time and "as a consequence of this we will have a situation in a short period to implement the agreement on the ground".

He pointed out that apart from directly benefitting the enclave residents by providing them the national identity of
their choice, as the outcome of the development "there will be no grey area" as far as border management and guarding is concerned, making easy tasks of two border guard forces in preventing cross border criminal activities in precisely demarcated frontiers.

"There is no question that this (LBA ratification) is going to go down in history as one of the transformational
moment of our relations with Bangladesh," he said. He referred to another landmark development in bilateral ties involving the outstanding issue of maritime boundary, saying "the way we managed to resolve this long pending issue
of demarcation of the maritime boundary is an example for the rest of the world on how two countries can solve such problems peacefully and in a manner in which both sides have stroked to benefit".

"The time has come to rip the benefits of demarcation and see how we can begin to look at aspects of co-operation in the area of ocean economy and blue economy and to leverage the relationship strengths, advantages and benefits of both the countries, which so far we were not able to do because of lack of demarcation," Saran said.

Now with the delimitation having been done, Saran said, Dhaka and Delhi reached a stage where they could seriously
begin to think of cooperation in different sectors and aspects of blue or ocean economy.

Asked about security cooperation, he said it is an ideal area of cooperation between the two nations in their interest. "In the past, both countries have suffered on account of terrorism, extremism and other acts of violence. So if we create a prime purpose of governments which is to create a better economy and society for the current and future generation, we have no option but (to) work on this area," he said, adding the kind of cooperation the two sides were able to achieve in the last few years was another "example for the whole region that how two countries can cooperate."

"We are looking forward to continue such cooperation in the future too...We should establish connectivity linkages and other forms of cooperation that will help us both, not to drag each other down or harm each other, but help each other instead," he said.

Asked what India thinks about Bangladesh's consistent concerns over the huge trade gap, Saran said, "this is an issue which concerns us also and we have conveyed to Bangladesh that we would like to work with Dhaka in this regard to see how we could reduce the trade imbalance".

"But the export and import between the two countries is a function of market forces and of demand and supply. However, in the past India took a very, very important step of opening up its market unilaterally to Bangladesh in 2011 to facilitate Bangladesh businesses to exploit the Indian market," he said.

In addition, he said, New Delhi was in consultation with Bangladesh about encouraging greater Indian investment here as "if you have greater investment in Bangladesh ¿ apart from bringing technologies and other positive spinoffs, it can also contribute to higher manufacturing, higher employment generation and also importantly, higher exports from these investments into India and to other countries".

Saran said the recent commerce secretary level meeting in Dhaka discussed issues of border infrastructure, harmonisation of standards, better transportation and also greater diversification of Bangladeshi products to India.

The geographic proximity of the two countries refers to a reality of "integrated value and supply chains that links India with Bangladesh...We are finding in many sectors the creation of this value chain and this is very part of a global trend," he added.

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