PM floats four ideas for connectivity, amity in South Asia

NEW DELHI Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today called for managing geo-political realities in South Asia through collaboration and placed a four-point proposal to make the region connected, friendly and competitive.

In the past decades, we saw many lofty regional ideas and initiatives. Some succeeded, others could not deliver. As I look into the next decades, we should follow the following four ideas to make the region connected, always ready to make bridges with other regions for mutual benefits of the nations, she told a function here.

The Bangladesh premier was addressing the closing plenary of India Economic Summit of the World Economic Forum at Hotel Taj Palace.

Sheikh Hasina presented her first proposal, saying: We must strive to secure peace, stability and harmony, for every individual across our societies. We must move beyond the majority-minority mindset. Pluralism has been the strength of South Asia for centuries. So, we should be able to celebrate South Asia's diversities in religion, ethnicity and language. This is fundamental.

In the second idea, Sheikh Hasina said it must be ensured that inequality across societies could not widen in times of faster growth as wealth creation should be inclusive and must trickle down to the bottom millions.

She added: Less developed communities or countries should not lag behind. We need to hold hands of 'others' across South Asia through our knowledge experience expertise investments.

About her third idea, the premier said mutual trust and mutual respect between all communities and countries are keys. So, misperceptions and false apprehensions need to be got over.

Bangladesh has consistently been contributing to international peace and security in global spheres, emanating from its policy of Friendship to all, Malice to none as laid out by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, she said, adding this approach helped the nation in maintaining good relations with all countries.

She mentioned that in 1996, Bangladesh resolved the issue of Ganges river-water sharing with India, adding We amicably delimited our maritime boundary with India and Myanmar.

Bangladesh and India are now developing trans-boundary river navigation, she said.

We are buying power from India through inter-country grid connections. Such collaborative culture is essential across our politics, economy and society. On the other hand, our private sectors compete with each other on a transparent and fairly basis, she added.

In the fourth proposal, the prime minister said, We must manage our geo-political realities through friendship and collaboration. Let us appreciate and balance regional political realties for the interest of our peoples. We cannot trade off long-term interests for short-term gains.

She further said in 1971, Father of the Nation of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made a clarion call to the Bangali people to stand up for their freedom and independence.

Bangabandhu believed in the power of people and loved them. He realized, if Bangladesh is to sustain its development, it has to get connected with its neighbors and grow together, she added.

The premier quoted Bangabandhu's declaration in February 1972 in Kolkata as saying, We will cooperate with all in establishing peace in South Asia in order to live side by side as good neighbours and pursue constructive policies for the benefits of our people.

She said, inspired by Bangabandhu's visionary ideas and driven by his belief in shared prosperity through shared responsibility, Bangladesh continue to champion regional cooperation like BIMSTEC, SAARC, BBIN, BCIM.

Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore Heng Swee Keat, Managing Director of Sequoia Capital India Shailendra Singh, Executive Vice Chairperson of Apollo Hospital Enterprise Shobana Karmineni and Chairwoman of Booking.com Gillian Tans were panelists in the event, moderated by WEF president Borge Brende.

Replying to a query from the moderator of the event, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh is attaching priority to establishing connectivity among South Asia, South East Asia and other regions to promote trade and commerce.

She said her government is working to restore the previous connectivity which was suspended after 1965. We always think about it. We can make bridge in this region and beyond the region, she said, adding that Bangladesh is playing a role in establishing the Asian Highway and the Asian Railway.

Describing poverty as the common enemy in this region, she said, We, all countries in the region should work together to fight the menace. We've the ability to do it and we'll definitely do it.

In this context, the premier said Bangabandhu had realized importance of enhancing connectivity for the prosperity of the region.

Turning to Rohingya issue, Sheikh Hasina said the displaced Rohingyas have emerged as a problem for Bangladesh.

She highlighted her government initiatives to ensure basis needs of the people following the footsteps of Bangabandhu as he liberated the country to make the people smile by freeing the country from poverty and hunger.

The Singaporean deputy prime minister appreciated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's idea of working together to make the region stronger in terms of reducing poverty and exchanging cooperation.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)