DHAKA: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said Bangladesh wants collaborative engagements with India and other neighbours for regional peace and prosperity and benefit of the people in South Asia.
“We want to cooperate with India and other countries in the immediate neighbourhood for creating an area of peace in South Asia,” she said while jointly flagging off Khulna-Kolkata “Bandhan Express” train service with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi through a video conference.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh values such engagements so “we can live as good neighbours and pursue constructive policies for the benefit of our people”.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also joined the inauguration through videoconferencing from West Bengal as the two premiers took part in the function from their offices in Dhaka and New Delhi.
The videoconferencing also marked the launching of the “end-to-end” immigration and customs facilities of Dhaka-Kolkata “Maitree Express” train service and opening of the second Bhairab Railway Bridge and the second Titas Railway Bridge.
Modi accompanied by Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at the Delhi end while foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali, PM’s Political Affairs Adviser HT Imam, Economic Affairs Adviser Dr Moshiur Rahman, state minister for foreign affairs M Shahriar Alam and Dr Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir MP were present at the premier’s official Ganobhaban residence.
Railways Minister Mazibul Haque joined the videoconferencing from the second Bhairab Bridge site while the PM’s Principal Secretary Dr Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury, Indian High Commissioner Hrash Vardhan Shringla, National Revenue Board Chairman Mohammad Nazibur Rahman and PM’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim accompanied the premier at Ganabhaban.
Sheikh Hasina said there is an excellent relation between Bangladesh and India which is very much essential for development of both the countries.
She said Bangladesh-India relations are in fact setting new high standards of bilateral cooperation in the region and beyond.
“I am sure we would be having many more similar, happy occasions in the days ahead for the greater benefit of our peoples … I look forward to working with your Excellency in our joint endeavour to that end,” she said.
Referring to the inauguration of Khulna-Kolkata rail service today, Sheikh Hasina said this bond won’t remain in only rail, it will also create bonds between the people of the two countries.
“We expect that it will take both the countries towards socioeconomic development,” she said.
Mentioning that connectivity is one of the main pillars of Bangladesh- India cooperation, Sheikh Hasina said the two countries are not only connected through rail, road, inland water and air, but also connected through internet bandwidth, coastal routes and power grid.
“These new modes of connectivity are adding diverse dimensions to our overall connectivity architecture … I am happy to note that we have recently extended our connectivity to the space too,” she said.
The premier said the vision of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who conceived the idea of regional cooperation in 1972 still remains Bangladesh’s constant guide.
“I am sure these connectivity initiatives will further consolidate this vision,” she said.
She said yesterday is yet another happy occasion for Bangladesh-India relations.
“On this important day, I am extremely happy to join your Excellency to formally launch the end-to-end immigration and customs of Dhaka-Kolkata Maitree Express and flagging of Khulna-Kolkata Bandhan Express service,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said this is the fulfillment of a long-cherished dream and these initiatives along with a new International passenger terminal at Chitpur, Kolkata will facilitate comfortable journey between Dhaka-Kolkata and Khulna-Kolkata routes.
The prime minister said the two countries are having wonderful cooperation in railways sector and it has been strengthened further since 2009.
“Our two countries are also working to reopen our pre-1965 rail links for cargo transport between Bangladesh and India …. I understand some of these are already functioning and the necessary works for the rest are in progress,” she said thanking the Indian government for supporting the railways projects through Line of Credit (LoC) funds.
Sheikh Hasina said she is happy that two railway bridges at Bhairab and Titas are also being inaugurated today which will contribute to make connectivity faster between Dhaka and Chittagong.
Wishing success of the Maitree Express and Bandhan Express services, the premier said she is also confident that these services would give a boost to cultural exchanges and tourism between the two neighboring countries.
“I hope this fine display of mutuality of our relationship will further strengthen our bilateral relations,” she said.
At the outset of her speech, the Bangladesh prime minister extended Diwali and Bijoya greetings to the Indian premier Narendra Modi, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the people of India.
The premier also invited them to visit Bangladesh.
Sheikh Hasina later talked to the people of Bhairab through videoconferencing.
Accusing the BNP-Jamaat government of destroying rail sector she said they closed many rail routes following the World Bank prescriptions.
The prime minister said her government after assuming office didn’t accept the World Bank prescription and created separate ministry of railways.
She also opined that not only rail, but also roadways, waterways, and airways are required for the country’s overall development.
Sheikh Hasina said the second Bhairab Bridge will be named after late president Zillur Rahman and mentioned that initiatives have been taken to set up a private university in Bhairab.
Urging the people to highlight the government’s development activities, the prime minister said when Awami League comes to power it does work for the welfare of the people.
On the other hand, the work of BNP is to kill the people by burning and destroy everything, she added.
“They don’t know doing good work and have such mentality of doing good workas they move with the anti-liberation forces. But we’re taking the country forward with the spirit of the Liberation War,” she said.