SINGAPORE | From the Himalayas to the Korean DMZ to the South China Sea, the balance of power in Asia appears to be shifting. But beneath the rhetoric, have the fundamentals really changed ? In East–West Center International Media Conference in Singapore, an expert panel of journalists, policy analysts, and academics examined the situation from…
India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said the solution of Rohingya crisis lied with the return of the “displaced persons” as Bangladesh sought New Delhi’s sustained pressure on Myanmar for solution of Rohingya issue that created humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh.
“India is deeply concerned at the spate of violence in Rakhine State of Myanmar. It is clear that normalcy will only be restored with the return of the displaced persons to Rakhine state,” she said reading out a statement at a joint media briefing with her Bangladesh counterpart AH Mahmood Ali.
She said New Delhi “urged that the situation be handled with restraint, keeping in mind the welfare of the population” while it supported implementation of the Kofi Annan led Special Advisory Commission report’s implementation.
Swaraj also referred to the India response to the crisis launching the ‘Operation Insaniyat’ in September to support Bangladesh in its “commendable efforts to provide shelter in Cox’s Bazaar to lakhs of “displaced persons” who fled from Rakhine.
She said under the operation New Delhi supplied essential requirements by way of parboiled rice, dal, salt, sugar, cooking oil, tea, milk powder, mosquito nets and soap to about 300,000 displaced persons.
Bangladesh and India are determined to protect their societies from the threat of ideologies of hate, violence and terror by adopting a zero tolerance policy and a comprehensive approach in fighting violent extremism and terrorism at all levels
“(But) In our view, the only long term solution to the situation in Rakhine State is rapid socio-economic and infrastructure development,” she said.
Swaraj also expressed India’s commitment to provide financial and technical assistance for identified projects to be undertaken in Rakhine State “in conjunction with the local authorities”.
The two ministers appeared before the media after the 4th fourth Bangladesh-India Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) meeting when they were aided by top officials of the respective foreign and other ministries of the two countries.
The Indian External Affairs Minister, who arrived here this afternoon on a two-day official visit, led the Indian delegation to the 4th Joint Consultative Commission between Bangladesh and India.
On the other hand, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali led the Bangladesh delegation.
During the meeting, the two sides reviewed Bangladesh-India bilateral ties, progress of key initiatives and decisions and discussed common challenges like terrorism, extremism and radicalization that the two countries have been facing since long.
“Our discussions today in the course of the 4th Joint Consultative Commission have been extremely useful. Even more important is the atmosphere of trust and understanding in which we carried out our discussions,” Swaraj said at the joint press statement.
She said Bangladesh and India are determined to protect their societies from the threat of ideologies of hate, violence and terror by adopting a zero tolerance policy and a comprehensive approach in fighting violent extremism and terrorism at all levels.
She expressed satisfaction over the progress achieved in the areas of trade and investment, security, connectivity, border management, power, energy, shipping and people to people exchanges.
Referring to India’s US$ 8b Line of Credit (LOC) to Bangladesh, she said, “We are confident that this credit will be invaluable to Bangladesh as it pursues its developmental priorities, especially in the areas of infrastructure development”.
Foreign Minister Mahmood Ali said that in the JCC meeting Bangladesh and India discussed issues to facilitate trade and investment and sharing of water of common rivers including signing of Teesta Water Sharing Agreement
In addition, she said India has also been extending grant assistance for small socio-economic projects in Bangladesh apart from India’s support to Bangladesh’s power sector.
Regarding cooperation in oil and gas sector, Swaraj said that India had already agreed on the construction of a petroleum products pipeline that will link Siliguri with Parbatipur, for the benefit of the people of north western Bangladesh, as a grant in aid project.
“Other visionary ideas under consideration include the setting up of LNG terminal, supply of natural gas by pipeline and investments in the upstream sector, she said.
“A significant area of our cooperation is our quest to increase connectivity through restoration of pre-1965 links encompassing road, rail, water and coastal shipping links,” Swaraj added.
In his statement, Foreign Minister Mahmood Ali said that in the JCC meeting Bangladesh and India discussed issues to facilitate trade and investment and sharing of water of common rivers including signing of Teesta Water Sharing Agreement.
In this connection, he said Bangladesh sought India’s technical and financial support to carry out a feasibility study on the long-term options for Bangladesh to ensure optimum use of Ganges water.
In regard of connectivity, the foreign minister said that the two countries agreed that BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement will be implemented between Bangladesh, India and Nepal through exchange of letters keeping provision that Bhutan to join later.
The meeting agreed that MoU for trilateral hydropower cooperation among Bangladesh, India and Bhutan would be signed soon.
Ali said that both the countries reviewed the status of implementation of India’s Line of Credit (LOC) projects and agreed to work closely with India in advancing the agenda of BIMSTEC.
Earlier, two agreements were signed between the two countries – Capacity Building in SME and Sale-Purchase Agreement between Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation and Numaligarh Refinery of India.
Besides, the Bangladesh foreign minister handed over the instrument of Ratification for Framework Agreement on International Solar Alliance (ISA) that Bangladesh ratified in August 2017.