Bangladesh comes first

Says Sushma Swaraj about India's neighbours, promises to resolve 'irritants' in bilateral relations
Sushma Swaraj

India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj yesterday said Bangladesh comes first among all of India's neighbours as part of a neighbourhood policy her government adopted.

The countries' bilateral ties are becoming stronger, she added.

"Our foreign policy follows neighbourhood first approach. Parshi pehele, lekin Bangladesh sabse pehele [neighbours first, but Bangladesh before all]," she said in Hindi.

Sushma said these while inaugurating the new Chancery Complex of the High Commission of India at Baridhara and 15 India-funded development projects of Tk 71.64 crore in Bangladesh.

Sushma, who arrived in Dhaka on Sunday, jointly held the Fourth Joint Consultative Commission meeting with her Bangladesh counterpart AH Mahmood Ali.

Promising to sincerely resolve “irritants” between Bangladesh and India, she at Baridhara said the relations between the neighbours are now outstanding, and that both countries are working to resolve these issues in the spirit of “friendly relations and with right intention”.

Though she did not specify the nature of the issues, she apparently hinted at the question of sharing water of common rivers, particularly of the Teesta, which has been pending since September 2011.

“I can assure you we [India and Bangladesh] will solve all irritants with sincerity.” Sushma left Dhaka at 1:15pm.

Calling AH Mahmood Ali her 'brother and dada', she referred to the peaceful solution to the disputes over Maritime Boundary and Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh.

The prime ministers of the two countries laid a strong foundation of cooperation which is expanding day by day. "I am confident we would be able to take the relations to greater heights in the times to come."

She also emphasised on investing in young people and said they are the future leaders of the two nations.

The High Commissioner of India Harsh Vardhan Shringla described the achievements of the Indian High Commission here, including easing the visa process and development projects.

Inauguration of 15 development projects

The External Affairs Minister of India formally inaugurated 15 development projects in sectors including education, healthcare, IT, water supply and social welfare with the grant assistance of India.

According to documents, the 15 development projects have been chosen keeping in mind the geographical spread, socio-economic benefits and priorities of the Bangladesh government.

Eleven water treatment plants are being built in southern Bhandaria Upazila in Pirojpur. The plants will provide desalinated potable drinking water to 150,000 people.

Some 36 community clinics will also be built.

Reconstruction of Ramna Kali Temple, which was destroyed by the invading Pakistani army in 1971, is also included in the projects. The main temple, a five-storey guesthouse, a deep tube-well in the temple premises and a gate would be built.

In addition to three Lines of Credit of $ 8 billion, India has been extending grant assistance for small socio-economic projects.

In the past three years alone, Sushma said 24 India-funded grant assistance projects were completed. They included construction of students' hostels, installation of tube-wells, cultural centres and orphanages.

Presently 58 projects, including city development projects in Rajshahi, Khulna and Sylhet, are being implemented.

The Chancery Complex of the High Commission she inaugurated at Baridhara is on five acres of land allotted in 1993 through a reciprocal govt-to-govt arrangement.

The Chancery complex consists of the residence of the High Commissioner, a housing block, a sports complex, and a hall for recreation.

Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, Health Minister Mohammed Nasim, Environment and Forest Minister Anwar Hossain Manju, Prime Minister's Political Affairs Adviser HT Imam, Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque, Indian Foreign Secretary Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and other high officials, educationists and journalists were present at the event.


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