Wednesday, January 11, 2012

India has to be liberal to Bangladesh

Hasina tells meeting of businessmen in Agartala.


Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said India has to be more liberal in order to strengthen bilateral relations with its neighbouring countries, especially Bangladesh. 

“Through bilateral discussions, we all know that problems can be resolved. But as a big state, India has to be more liberal towards its neighbours,” she said while addressing a meeting of Bangladesh-India business delegations at Pragma Bhaban here in Agartala.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar also urged the central government to take a “sincere initiative with liberal eyesight” from its side to strength relations with Bangladesh. 

Expressing an intent to purchase power from Tripura directly or by setting up joint venture projects, Hasina said the two countries also had vast prospects for cooperation in the areas of information and communication technology, to which businessmen in the two countries can give real shape.

The prime minister, who is on a two-day official visit to Tripura, opined that strong cooperation between Bangladesh and India was crucial for both countries and real cooperation was possible if the political will was there.

This is the first ever visit by any Bangladesh premier to this state after the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.
The Bangladesh leader also held talks with Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari. 

Hundreds of banners and placards were set up throughout Agartala to welcome Hasina. Thousands of people, many of whom are originally from Bangladesh but are now settled in Agartala, waited in long queues on different city streets to see her. Important speeches of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1971 were played at different places. 

People of all strata gave a hearty welcome to the Bangladesh prime minister amidst unprecedented security measures put in place by the central and state governments. 

In her address, Hasina said Indo-Bangla cooperation and relations had got a new dimension after her 2010 visit to New Delhi and Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's Dhaka visit last year. 

Hasina, president of the ruling Awami League, said both the countries now had a strong political will to better their bilateral relations. She urged the businessmen of the countries to come forward to give the willpower “a real shape for the mutual benefit of their people”.

The premier requested the local businessmen to import more goods from Bangladesh and called upon Indian entrepreneurs to make large scale investments in Bangladesh.

Saying that poverty was the common enemy of the region, Hasina opined that it was possible to root out poverty if both the countries expanded business between them and strengthened bilateral relations.

Hasina said the fate of the people of Bangladesh and India, particularly of the northeastern part, was tied up with the same string and “poverty is the main impediment to their development”. 

She further said the main focus should be on improving the living conditions of people, and it could be achieved together. 

Referring to various important bilateral decisions during her India visit and the one to Dhaka by Manmohan Singh, she said these had heralded a new era of cooperation in the areas of border demarcation, water management, trade and commerce, communication and development of infrastructure and power sectors.
A better communications system might play an important role in improving ties between the two next-door neighbours, she added. 

Hasina said the geographical location of Bangladesh is very important for improving regional road, rail, water and air links, especially in terms of better communication between the Indian north-eastern states, and Nepal and Bhutan. 

The premier said the Bangladesh government had taken a decision to establish a rail link between Akhaura and Agartala, and construct a bridge on Feni river as carrying of cargo for the construction of power plant at Palatana in Tripura has mounted pressure on the existing infrastructure.

Besides, a decision has been taken to build a new land port at Sagrome-Ramgarh point, she said. 

Hasina revealed that necessary steps were being taken for a border haat on the Bangladesh-Tripura border to help producers of both countries in selling their products at fair prices. 

The prime minister said steps were being taken to remove non-tariff barriers. Officials of the two countries were working together to improve the existing facilities at the land ports and land-duty ports and other physical infrastructure on both the sides. 

She thanked the Indian prime minister for allowing duty-free access for 46 categories of Bangladeshi garment items to the Indian market in the first phase and later all types of items under Safta rules.

“The access has created an opportunity for Bangladeshi goods to compete with Indian products.” 

She said Bangladesh and Tripura shared a long common history, language and culture and their ethnicity and values are almost the same. The bond got impetus during Bangladesh's War of Liberation. 

At the time, she recalled, the people of Tripura had given shelter to millions of Bangladeshi refugees and helped them with food, clothing and shelter. 

“Many of our valiant freedom fighters are lying in eternal rest in the soil of Tripura, she said, recalling their supreme contributions to Bangladesh's independence.

In his remarks, Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said everyone wanted well established relations between Bangladesh and India and it did not matter if a state was small or big. 

He said that to achieve this stature, everybody would have to see the relations on the basis of equality. As a big state India has to sacrifice a bit more than Bangladesh to attain the well established relations. 

President’s dialogue unfruitful: BNP

Submits proposals on EC reconstitution, to hold press briefing in afternoon.

Couple of hours after emerging from the president’s ongoing dialogue on reconstitution of the Election Commission Wednesday, main opposition BNP termed the talks unfruitful.

The BNP made the observation in the context of chances of fulfillment of its demand for restoring the caretaker government which was the party’s main talking point during the one-hour talks.

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia led a 15-member party delegation to the talks that began at Bangabhaban, the president's official residence, at 11:00am.

“Restoring the caretaker government was our main agenda. We didn’t discuss anything about the EC,” BNP acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said at a press conference at the party’s central office at Naya Paltan.

In response, the president said he could not do anything that might violate the Constitution, Fakhrul said, adding: “He however said he will convey our demands to the government.” 

During the talks, the BNP insisted on reaching a decision on restoration of the caretaker government system before EC reconstitution.

“The BNP thinks a free, fair and neutral national election with the participation of all political parties is not possible under a political government,” Fakhrul quoted Khaleda Zia as saying during their dialogue with President Zillur Rahman.

“You (the president) and the prime minister (Sheikh Hasina) also expressed the same opinion in 1995-96,” the BNP chief said in a written statement which was handed over to the president.
The party submitted written proposals and recommendations on EC reconstitution.

On December 26 last year, BNP decided to join the talks with the president following the latter's invitation to join the dialogue.

The government in June last year scrapped the caretaker system through the fifteenth amendment to the constitution, allowing parliamentary polls to be held under political government. The BNP opposed the amendment, and now maintains it will not go to polls unless held under a non-party caretaker government.

Against this backdrop, the president on December 22 last year started the talks with the political parties to discuss formation of the new Election Commission. The tenure of the current commission expires on February 14.