Bangladesh must change its mindset towards India: Dhaka elite

August 3rd, 2008 - 2:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Aug 3 (IANS) Bangladesh must “change its mindset” and foster closer ties with larger neighbour India for mutual good and for the good of the South Asian region, said politicians, academics and retired civil servants at a conference here. Speakers at the meet Saturday said all kinds of relationships, including political, social, cultural, economic and diplomatic ones, and cooperation between Bangladesh and India will have to be built up for the nation’s own benefits and interests.

“India is not only a big neighbour, but also a tested friend of Bangladesh. We cannot be benefited keeping a distance with India. Relationships and cooperation between the two neighbours will have to be strengthened changing the mindset that the security and sovereignty of Bangladesh won’t be hampered if India is given transit facilities,” The Daily Star said reporting a consensus among the speakers.

The roundtable on ‘Bangladesh-India Economic Cooperation’ organised by Bangladesh-India Citizens’ Council (BICC) coincided with the 15th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit taking place in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Chaired by Mostafa Faruk Mohammad, a retired top civil servant, the meeting was addressed by senior politicians, academicians, economists, retired civil and military officials and leading cultural personalities.

Workers’ Party of Bangladesh president Rashed Khan Menon, a leading left-of-centre trade unionist and politician, said the political leadership will have to come forward and change their mindset to build up confidence between Bangladesh and India.

“A vested quarter raises question of security and sovereignty when the issues of giving transit or trans-shipment to India are discussed. Those who talk more against India, maintain more trade relationship with India. The quarter does so for political gains in elections,” he added.

Menon said the problems between Bangladesh and India are political and those will have to be solved politically, adding that the mutual exchanges between the citizens of both the countries will have to be enhanced for making friendly and confidential relationships.

A.A.M.S. Arefin Siddique, Abul Kalam Azad Patwari, BICC member secretary Abir Ahad, R.M. Debnath, former secretary Md Mahe Alam, former additional secretary R.N. Trivedi, Maj Gen (retd) Jamil D. Ahsan, Zafar Iqbal Siddique, Monoranjan Ghosal, advocate Habibur Rahman, Nurun Nahar Mary, Jayashri Zaman and Mehedi Hassan also participated in the roundtable discussion.

Siddique said initiatives should be taken to build up a relationship of vibrant cooperation with India in order to keep pace with the economic development of the country.

“We have wasted a lot of time to achieve gains from India, since a quarter always opposes the good relationships with India for their political interests,” he said.

Advocate Muhammad Mohsin Rashid said trade ties between the two countries have also been constrained due to lack of trans-shipment facilities between Bangladesh and India.

“If such facilities are granted, trade relationship between India and its own North East can become a major source of revenue income for Bangladesh. For example, tea from Assam travels 1,400 kilometres to the Kolkata port whereas the distance can be curtailed by 60 percent if access to Chittagong port is available,” he added.

He further said the aims of cooperation among the South Asian countries in general and between India and Bangladesh in particular should be to use the available resources optimally to provide maximum welfare in the whole region.

Supreme Court lawyer Muhammad Mohsen Rashid presented a written statement emphasising on closer Bangladedsh-India ties.

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