Following is the text of Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s address at Dhaka University today:
“I am delighted to be here today in the hallowed precincts of Dhaka University. We have just celebrated the holy festival of Id and I bring with me the good wishes, prayers and greetings of the people of India.
I thank the Vice Chancellor Professor Arefin Siddique and all students and faculty for inviting me to one of the finest seats of higher learning in South Asia. Many renowned scholars and thinkers have passed through its portals and brought glory to their motherland. As a teacher myself, I feel truly at home in this environment.Dhaka University is more than just an institution of higher learning. It was here that the language movement began, culminating ultimately in the birth of a new proud nation and bringing a new dawn for a proud people.
Every year on Ekushey, thousands of people gather at the Shaheed Minar to pay homage to the martyrs of the language movement. It is an emotional outpouring of their love for their language, their country and their unique culture. It is a renewal of the dedication to the values and aspirations that guided you in your years of national struggle.
The Ekushey Book Fair has become among the largest attended literary events in the world, symbolizing Bangladesh’s love for literature, fine arts and poetry.
It was here, at the University of Dhaka, that the fires of intellectual awakening and freedom began to glow.
I pay tribute to the memory of the students and teachers who were killed here defending what they believed in and to the memory of all those who laid down their lives for the liberation of Bangladesh. I pay tribute to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who fought for his convictions and led the nation to freedom.
Bangladesh has firmly rejected extremist ideas and achieved success as an open, moderate and vibrant society and democracy.
India and Bangladesh share these values. Our people have a common civilisational heritage.
Both our countries have been deeply influenced by the tenets of Islam, which teaches peace, compassion and virtuous living. For centuries, our people have lived and worshipped together in harmony. Even today thousands of Indians and Bangladeshis from all creeds go to seek solace at the dargah in Ajmer Sharif.
Our lands and people have been sustained by the common waters of the mighty Ganga and the Brahmaputra. The verses of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam are read and revered on both sides of the border. This year we are jointly celebrating Gurudev’s 150th birth centenary in a befitting manner.
We fought shoulder to shoulder during the struggle for liberation. Now we must join hands to meet the challenges of equitable social and economic development. We must fight poverty, hunger and disease.
We must live in peace and harmony as good neighbours just like our forefathers did. We must stand by each other in good times and in times of crisis as we have done in the past.
India celebrates and takes pride in the achievements of the people of Bangladesh.
The world has watched with great admiration Bangladesh stand on its feet in the face of great odds.
The people of India have watched with admiration as the people of Bangladesh have fought poverty, overcome the vagaries of nature and survived political upheaval. And through all this, their faith in democracy has been strengthened. They have turned out in record numbers in every election to exercise their democratic franchise.
The poor in the villages are finding new livelihoods. Women have become the back bone of the micro-credit sector and the textile industry. The middle class is growing rapidly. Social indicators are improving and in some cases are better than those in India.
Like India, Bangladesh has an active civil society and a vibrant and free media. The institutions of pluralistic democracy are gaining in experience and strength.
These are not small achievements for a young country.
Bangladesh is an influential member of the Islamic world where it is a voice of moderation and reason. It is the largest troop contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations.
Bangladesh is an important voice of the developing world. It has much to say and contribute in the comity of nations and the affairs of the world. India will support Bangladesh’s efforts to play its due and commensurate role in regional and global affairs.
I have always believed that the destinies of the nations of South Asia are interlinked. We must believe in the vision of a shared future of common prosperity and fulfillment.
It was Bangladesh which proposed the creation of a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation to give shape to a common South Asian identity and regional cooperation.
I have often said that the people of South Asia are second to none when it comes to their talent, their enterprise or their ability to cope with adversity. But to realize the potential of the region we have to believe in the power of cooperative effort. We have to learn to trust each other and work with each other in our enlightened self-interest.
There are difficulties and obstacles in the way of greater regional cooperation. But the people of our region have the imagination and maturity to find our own solutions to our own problems.
Our borders are a sovereign reality but we can make them frontiers of hope and opportunity as we work to build our common prosperity.
The effective management of our borders is probably the biggest challenge we face in developing our bilateral relations.
The first essential step is to create a defined and peaceful boundary that will provide a stable and tranquil environment for cross-border cooperation. That is why both our governments have worked hard to resolve the outstanding boundary issues in the spirit of give and take.
A Protocol was signed yesterday to finalise the unresolved issues of the enclaves, areas under adverse possession and undemarcated areas. This will be done without dislocating people living in the border areas. I congratulate both sides for arriving at this historic agreement in a spirit of friendship, mutual understanding and a desire to put these issues behind us.
India has agreed to 24 hour access across the Tin Bigha corridor. We have facilitated the electrification of Dahagram and Angarpota as a step towards improving the conditions of the people living there.
I am acutely conscious of the problems that arise due to the incidents on the border. We have now put in place mechanisms which we hope will greatly reduce the scope for such incidents and strengthen mutual trust and goodwill among the border guarding forces and people living in the border areas.
There must be even greater co-operation between our respective border forces to ensure that illegal trans-border activities do not cast any shadow on our bilateral relations.
Both India and Bangladesh are vulnerable to the forces of extremism and terrorism. Such forces sap the strength of our societies, threaten our state systems and impede our social and economic progress. It is therefore of paramount importance that we work together to confront this challenge.
I would like to acknowledge the immense cooperation India has received from Bangladesh in this area, which is in the interest of both India and Bangladesh.
Our economic cooperation is growing but is well below its potential.
We recognize the sensitivity of our Bangladeshi friends over the large bilateral trade deficit. We will work sincerely to address this issue.
I commit the Government of India to providing greater market access to Bangladeshi products in India by removing both tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade.
Yesterday the Government of India issued a notification removing all 46 textile tariff lines of greatest sensitivity to Bangladesh from the negative list for Least Developed Countries under SAFTA. There will be zero duty on Bangladeshi exports of these items to India with immediate effect. There will be no quota restrictions on these items.
In my view, what is of greater long-term importance is increased Indian investment in Bangladesh. This will not only lead to greater economic activity but also increase Bangladeshi exports to India and other countries. We should work on both fronts not only to reduce the trade deficit but increase and even multiply total trade.
The world is in rapid ferment. Globalization and the growing inter-dependence of economies are creating new challenges and opportunities.
It is imperative for India and Bangladesh to find new pathways of cooperation to deal with the common challenges of development. The governments of both countries have the unfinished agenda of providing adequate food, adequate shelter and adequate healthcare to their people; protecting them from floods and other natural disasters and empowering them to earn a decent living.
Yesterday our two governments signed a Framework Agreement for Cooperation on Development. This agreement commits the two governments to work together in areas such as agriculture, health, education and culture. We have identified other areas where cooperation will provide direct benefit to our people. These include power transmission, management of common rivers, road, rail and water transportation and protection of the environment.
We have mutually agreed on projects worth over 750 million US dollars under the 1 billion US dollar credit line India has provided to Bangladesh. These projects, I sincerely believe, will help in strengthening Bangladesh’s transport infrastructure, especially the railway sector.
We will further strengthen our cooperation in the area of flood forecasting, disaster warning and disaster management. We will collaborate with Bangladesh to cope with the threat of climate change. This is an area where we should pool our scientific knowledge to develop new joint strategies for adaptation and mitigation.
The management of our common resources is vital for sustainable development in both countries.
Water is a very sensitive subject in both our countries. But we have shown that, in a spirit of friendship and mutual accommodation, we can agree on cooperative arrangements based on the principles of equity, fair play and no harm to either party. The Ganga Water Treaty signed in 1996 is one such example which has stood the test of time.
I was hopeful that during this visit we would be able to come to an agreement on the sharing of the waters of the Teesta. Both sides worked very hard to arrive at a solution that would be acceptable to all. Unfortunately these efforts did not meet with success within the time available. I have asked all the concerned officials to intensify their efforts towards finding a viable formula which does not cause undue distress to all those, in India or in Bangladesh, who are dependent on the flows of the river.
Concern has been expressed from time to time on the Tipaimukh dam project in India. I wish to make a public statement and make it clear that India will not take steps that will adversely affect Bangladesh.
We are making serious efforts to improve border infrastructure, particularly the Land Customs Stations. New Integrated Check Posts are coming up at Petrapole in West Bengal, Agartala in Tripura and Dawki in Meghalaya. The border haat at Kalaichar-Baliamari in Meghalaya has been inaugurated, and procedures for movement of trucks from Bhutan and Nepal to Bangladesh have been finalized.
Power connectivity and energy cooperation are emerging as major pillars of our economic relationship. Work on a transmission line which will evacuate up to 500 megawatt of power to Bangladesh from India has begun. A feasibility study for the establishment of a 1320 megawatt power plant in Khulna has been completed.
We have set up a Joint Empowered Group to reduce travel time for passengers on the Maitree Express between Dhaka and Kolkata.
We have agreed on the need to enhance greater exchanges at all levels to foster deeper understanding. We have agreed to further intensify academic, cultural, sports, and youth exchanges.
I am aware that many Bangladeshi citizens are disappointed when they are unable to see their favourite local channels when they visit India. There is no rule which prevents the broadcast of Bangladeshi channels in India. I hope that commercial arrangements can be worked out so that Indian viewers have the opportunity to listen to the great contemporary exponents of Rabindra Sangeet and Baul in Bangladesh or see the films of the late Tareque Masood.
I hope that with all these steps we can make an irreversible shift in India-Bangladesh relations. We seek to build our relations on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and respect for each other.
If we can make a habit of cooperating with each other, the possibilities for mutually reinforcing growth and development are limitless.
I compliment Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for the statesmanship she has shown in breaking new ground in our bilateral relations. This is what people on both sides of the border want – to turn a new leaf and look ahead. Our friendship is with the people of Bangladesh. We wish to work with all sections of the people and all shades of public opinion in Bangladesh to foster multi-faceted cooperation between our two countries.
We will always be neighbours and remain friends. If we can make a success of building a new cooperative model for India-Bangladesh relations, it will have a tremendous impact on the fortunes of South Asia.
I believe in all sincerity that India will not be able to realize its own destiny without the partnership of its South Asian neighbours. Therefore, establishing relations of friendship and trust with our neighbours, particularly with Bangladesh, and the creation and consolidation of a peaceful and prosperous regional environment in South Asia are the highest priority of our government.
Both India and Bangladesh have young populations. The young faces I see here today represent the hopes and aspirations for our future. They will soon take over the mantle of carrying forward the sacred legacy of trust and amity between our two countries that was built by our great leaders. To my young friends gathered here today, I say – just as you work hard to build the Sonar Bangla of the poet’s dreams, I urge you to work with the same passion and same sincerity to usher in a golden era of peace, prosperity and friendship among the people of India and Bangladesh.”