Heads of state and government of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) countries meet at the Myanmar's capital Nay-Pyi-Taw on the eve of Bimstec summit yesterday. Photo: PID
Dhaka has urged Nay Pyi Taw for an "amicable solution" to take back the Myanmar refugees from Bangladesh.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who reached the Myanmar capital yesterday to attend the third Bimstec summit, made the call during her meeting with the country's president Thein Sein at the Presidential Palace.
According to official estimate, around 30,000 registered Rohingya refugees and some 3 lakh to 5 lakh undocumented Myanmar nationals are living in Bangladesh. Of them, a significant number intruded here following persecution during the previous military rule in Myanmar.
Hasina also had a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, head of Myanmar's opposition National League for Democracy, at the parliament and discussed issues of common interests and concerns.
During the hour-long meeting, the Bangladesh prime minister said the refugee issue should be resolved through peaceful and amicable talks between the two friendly countries.
However, there came no response from the Myanmar president on the issue.
President Thein Sein told Hasina that Bangladesh could become a partner of an initiative taken by India, Thailand and Myanmar on establishing road connectivity.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina shakes hands with Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the latter's parliament office in Naypyidaw, the country's capital, yesterday. The Bangladesh leader is now in the neighbouring Myanmar to attend the third summit of the Bimstec, a regional body of some countries in South Asia and South East Asia, today. Photo: PID
In response, Hasina said connectivity of this region would considerably improve with the introduction of the Bangladesh -Myanmar-Kunming (China) road. "It will also boost trades in the region," she added.
However, there was no mention of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar initiative in the reports of the state-owned BSS and private UNB news agencies.
Leading a 54-member delegation, Hasina is due to address the Bimstec summit today. On the sidelines, she will hold bilateral meetings with the president of Sri Lanka, and prime ministers of India, Nepal and Bhutan.
Briefing reporters after the meeting with Myanmar president, Hasina's Special Assistant Mahbubul Hoque Shakil told reporters that the two leaders laid importance on peace and stability of the region, reports BSS.
The prime minister reiterated that her government would continue to show zero tolerance to terrorism. "Bangladesh's soil would never be let used for terrorist activities against the country or against any of its friends," she said.
She identified poverty as the "main and common enemy" of the region and stressed the need for inter-state connectivity for the development of the people of the region.
"Through regional connectivity, the countries of this region will be economically strengthened further while mutual trade and business will enhance," she said, adding that the people would be the ultimate beneficiaries.
Hasina also said Bangladeshi entrepreneurs were interested to invest in Myanmar, particularly in agro-processing industries. The two leaders emphasised boosting bilateral trade.
The prime minister invited the Myanmar president to Bangladesh and the latter accepted it. The president said he would visit Dhaka at a convenient time.
MEETING WITH SUU KYI
The PM's special assistant told reporters that in the meeting Suu Kyi said both -- Hasina and herself -- had to cross a long path of struggle and movements for democracy.
She said Bangladesh had set an example in developing the fate of the poor, particularly of the rural women and children. Myanmar can follow Bangladesh as it had become an inspiration in alleviating poverty.
The icon of democracy lauded the role of Hasina for the development of women and children and said "One house, One farm", "Ghorey Fera" and "Asrayan Project" were some remarkable examples of her government, which played a significant role in poverty reduction. Such projects were inspiration for any country, she added.
In response, Hasina said her government had emphasised developing the fate of the rural women and children to ensure their economic emancipation.
Suu Kyi also introduced to Hasina "Saving Box" programmes in her electoral areas which were inspired by Bangladesh.
Sheikh Hasina also had meeting with Speaker of Myanmar parliament Shwe Mann and discussed issues related to strengthening democracy in both the countries.
In the evening, she along with six other participating heads of governments and states joined a dinner hosted by the Myanmar president at Myanmar International Convention Centre.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam, Ambassador at-Large M Ziauddin, Secretary to Prime Minister's Office Abul Kalam Azad, Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque, and Bangladesh Ambassador to Myanmar Anup Kumar Chakma were also present at Haisna's meetings.
The state minister for foreign affairs yesterday, after the 14th Bimstec ministerial meeting, said the Bimstec permanent secretariat would start functioning in Dhaka from May.
The third Bimstec summit will today ink a Memorandum of Association (MoA) on the establishment of the secretariat.
Shahriar Alam, who led the Bangladesh delegation at the ministerial meeting in Myanmar, welcomed Ambassador Sumith Nakandala, the first secretary general of Bimstec, to take up his assignment in Dhaka.
Speaking at the ministerial meeting, the state minister urged the member states to further widen and deepen collective engagement in Bimstec, especially in the sectors of trade and investment, energy, climate change, transport and communications, poverty alleviation, counter terrorism and transnational crimes.
All the foreign ministers appreciated and thanked Bangladesh for its proactive measures to help the Bimstec secretariat function early.
The ministers also finalised the text of the third Bimstec Summit Declaration, which will be adopted by the heads of the member states today.
In addition to the secretariat, two more instruments will be signed during the Bimstec summit -- MoA on setting up of the Bimstec Centre for Weather and Climate in India and MoU on the set up of the Bimstec Cultural Industries Commission and Bimstec Cultural Industries Observatory in Bhutan.