Welecome Remarks by Dr Arvind Gupta, Director General, IDSA at Fourth IDSA-BIISS Dialogue, July 3, 2013
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  • Excellency Dr Tariq Karim
    Maj Gen. Haque,
    Members of the Bangladesh delegation,
    Amb Rajeet Mitter, Prof Ghosh, Shri GK Pillai,

    Dear Friends,
    I would like to extend a warm welcome to the Bangladeshi delegation for the Delhi round of IDSA- BIISS dialogue. I would like to welcome Maj Gen. Haque during his first visit to IDSA after taking over as director general of the BIISS.

    We met last year in Dhaka for a highly productive exchange of views. The BIISS had put together an interesting programme providing us an opportunity to meet a wide cross section of people. We came back with a better understanding of perceptions in Bangladesh of India-Bangladesh relations. We will continue with the tradition of exchange of views in an open and friendly atmosphere.

    The last four years have been momentous for India Bangladesh relations. The visits of PM Sheikh Hasina to India in 2010 and of PM Manmohan Singh to Dhaka in 2011 have laid the foundation of further development of India Bangladesh relations. There is a sense of hope & optimism in bilateral relations. Bangladesh’s gesture of honouring foreign nationals who contributed to its liberation has been highly appreciated in India.

    The two countries have signed a framework agreement which gives a strategic character to our relationship. Solutions to many problems which have dogged the relationship for decades have been found. Arriving at the Land Boundary Agreement on how to resolve the complex problem of the exchange of adverse possessions and enclaves, has been a landmark development. The details of Teesta water sharing have been agreed upon. The Indian side has handed over DPR to Bangladesh. The terms for a joint study have been finalized. The dialogue between the BSF and BDR is held regularly and many problems relating to border management are being tackled through cooperation.

    It is a matter of satisfaction that practical issues, which affect the people of Bangladesh, are being addressed. In 2010, an agreement was signed on setting up $ 1 billion line of credit. Of this $ 200 million have been converted into grants. I understand there has been considerable progress on the operationalising the $ 800 million line of credit. Sixteen [16] project proposals aggregating to USD 794.15 million, have been cleared by GOI-MEA, for coverage under the LOC. Out of these proposals, eleven contracts aggregating to USD 163.28 million, proposed by the Bangladesh authorities have so far been approved by EXIM Bank and disbursements aggregating to USD 82.76 million have so far been made.

    India Bangladesh trade relations have improved. The negative list has been pruned & garments export quota has been increased. Bilateral trade, although still unbalanced, has gone up to $ 5.2 billion in 2011-12.

    Institutional Mechanism has been strengthened. Some of the important institutional bodes that meet periodically to discuss bilateral issues include Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) and Joint Economic Commission (JEC) at Ministerial level, Foreign Office Consultations, Home, Commerce and Water Resources Secretary level talks, BSF-BDR DG-level border coordination conference, Joint Working Group on Security (JWG), Joint Boundary Working Group (JBWG), Joint Working Group on Trade (JWG), Joint Group of Customs Officials (JGC), Protocol Renewal Committee and Standing Committee to review implementation of Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade, and Inter- Governmental Railway Meeting.

    The above is not to suggest that we can be complacent. Bangladesh is justified in being dissatisfied with the fact that the Teesta water sharing agreement has not been signed. Similarly, the land boundary agreement has also not been ratified by the Indian parliament. India is also hoping that transit and access issues, which have apparently been linked to the resolution of Teesta Water sharing, can be resolved at the earliest. India continues to have concerns regarding illegal immigration.

    However, when weighed on the scale of achievements, India Bangladesh relations are not doing badly. There is a positive atmosphere in our ties. The achievements are considerable. That must be recognized.

    That provides hope for the future. In India there has been an enormous shift in public opinion favoring better ties with Bangladesh but we continue to see some motivated, negative writings in Bangladesh media. We regard Bangladesh as an important partner in the development of peace and stability in the region. India greatly values Bangladesh’s cooperation in handling the insurgents in the North East. Similarly, India and Bangladesh are also cooperating in SAARC and BIMSTEC. This will bring prosperity in the region.

    We need to be realist. The Future is uncertain. We cannot afford to be complacent. The question that we would like to address in this round table is whether the positive developments in India-Bangladesh relations have become irreversible and would pass the test of time given that both countries would go for elections next year. What should we do to make our relations, stronger and better even in the face of political uncertainties?

    We must look for newer areas of cooperation. There are many areas in which the two sides can cooperate. For instance, India and Bangladesh, both being coastal states in the Bay of Bengal region, can cooperate in maritime issues.

    The potential for deepening cooperation in the cultural field has not been exhausted. We need to relax the visa regime to promote people-to-people contacts. India needs to look at the proposal to issue work permits to those who wish to work in India.

    We will have the opportunity to discuss these issues in some details during the course of the day.

    I do hope you will have a pleasant stay in India.

    Wishing you all the best.