A media delegation team from Bangladesh visited India in May 2018. From left Rajesh Uike, First Secretary of Political Wing, High Commission of India (now posted in Vietnam), Mahfuz Anam, Editor of The Daily Star, Shoeb Chowdhury, Chairman of Editorial Bo
Indian government has withdrawn the requirement of inner line permit for Bangladeshi tourists to visit Sikkim. It will enable thousands of Bangladeshi people to explore the hidden beauty of Sikkim. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government deserve applause for this move.
It may be recalled that a business delegation team from India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce (IBCCI) visited India in April 2018. I was one of the delegates from IBCCI. We were invited by Indian Chamber of Commerce. The visit was a successful one but we could not enter the Gangtok city of Sikkim at that time as we did not have inner line permit.
Later on in May 2018 a high-profile delegation team from different leading media houses of Bangladesh visited India. The delegation team consisted of me from The Asian Age, Tasmima Hossain, Editor of Daily Ittefaq, Mahfuz Anam, Editor of The Daily Star, Prime Minister's former Press Adviser Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, Matiur Rahman, Editor of Prothom Alo, Sayem Sobhan Anvir, Managing Director of East West Media Group Limited, Ahmed Jubaer, Managing Director of Somoy TV and Mozammel Haque Babu, Chief Executive Officer of Ekattor TV. Harsh Vardhan Shringla, former Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh played a very helpful role in making the tour happen. Harsh Vardhan Shringla is currently Indian Ambassador to the United States of America.
We had meetings with different Indian dignitaries during the visit including former Indian External Affairs State Minister MJ Akbar and Indian Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh who is now Indian Defence Minister. I told Shri Rajnath Singh about the fact that we could not visit Sikkim earlier because of not having inner line permit.
Shri Rajnath Singh listened to me very attentively. He assured that he would initiate necessary actions to solve the legacy problem over visiting Sikkim. Rajnath Singh kept his word as a result of which Bangladeshi people now do not need inner line permit to visit Sikkim. Sikkim is located close to Tibet and Himalayas. For this reason Sikkim is a highly attractive spot to tourists.
The relationship between India and Bangladesh stands on tested and proven grounds. India comprehensively cooperated with Bangladesh during the Liberation War of 1971. Around twenty million Bangladeshi people took shelter in India while the war was going on. A lot of Indian soldiers got killed while fighting for Bangladesh's independence.
India is a vital development partner for Bangladesh. At the same time India values the prevalence of Bengali cultural heritage. India has all along aided Bangladesh in upholding the sanctity of Bengali culture. At the same time India is Bangladesh's most trusted ally. We will have to retain good relations with India under all circumstances for our own betterment.
India played profound roles at the back of Bangladesh's socio-economic advancement. India has all along stood by Bangladesh during good and tough times. We can learn precious lessons from India regarding democratic practice and upholding the spirit of the Liberation War of 1971. It is even hard to imagine Bangladesh's development keeping India aside. India is well-known all over the world as a country of authentic democracy.
Bangladesh and India are members of SAARC, BIMSTEC, BBIN and Commonwealth.
Bangladesh's export to India has meanwhile crossed one billion dollars. It is most likely to reach five or six billion dollars if we can overcome all the barriers in the arena of trade and commerce. The people of Bangladesh are optimistic that the complication over the Teesta water sharing treaty will be resolved soon.
Bangladesh is India's biggest trade partner in South Asia. The bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh was US $ 5.2 billion during 2011-2012 whereas it increased to US $ 7.5 billion during 2016-2017. The bilateral trade between Bangladesh and India reached new heights in 2018 crossing the mark of 9 billion dollars. Bangladesh's export earnings from India grew by 142% in 2018.
Bangladesh and India also agreed to sign a free trade deal in 2018 to expand economic relations between the two countries. India has extended three lines of credits (LOCs) to Bangladesh during last eight years amounting to 8 billion dollars in total. This makes Bangladesh the largest recipient of LOC funds from India. Bangladesh has offered three special economic zones (SEZs) for Indian investors and seeks substantial investments from Indian entrepreneurs in these three economic zones which are located in Mongla, Bheramara and Mirsarai.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian Premier Narendra Modi jointly inaugurated four projects in Bangladesh including the supply of 1,100 buses and trucks to the Bangladesh Roads Transports Corporation (BRTC) on 11 March 2019.
The projects include the supply of double-decker, single-decker, AC and non-AC buses and trucks to BRTC under a second line of credit. The projects will also establish a total of 36 community clinics in five districts-Jamalpur, Sherpur, Habiganj, Sunamganj and Brahmanbaria-with the grant financing by the Indian government.
The Agartala land port in India is a very sophisticated one whereas the Akhaura land port on Bangladesh side is not advanced enough. Indian traders cannot use Akhaura land port for importing commodities from Bangladesh. On the other hand, the Hili land port in Bangladesh allows very limited clearance of goods. It is also necessary to build comfortable waiting rooms and guesthouses around the land ports for the convenience of traders.
Narendra Modi visited Dhaka in June 2015. He gave a wonderful and inspirational speech in Bangabandhu International Conference Center (BICC) at a program hosted by Dhaka University. In his speech Narendra Modi lauded the progress Bangladesh obtained in the socio-economic arena, in youth development and women emancipation.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to visit India in October 2019. This visit will hopefully add new dimensions to the relationship between Bangladesh and India and will bring about more facilities for boosting commercial ties between the two countries.
Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman came back to Bangladesh after the country's independence on 10th January 1972. Bangabandhu first visited Kolkata after Bangladesh's independence. The assistance Bangladesh received from India was invaluable. That's why Bangabandhu said while thanking India, "I have nothing to give you except my wholehearted love."
Keeping in view Bangabandhu's words, we offer our heartfelt love to India and in the same tune we look forward to earnest love from India as well.
The writer is a diplomat, entrepreneur, author, Chairman of Editorial Board of The Asian Age and a CIP.
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