Remarks by High Commissioner of India, Mr. Harsh Vardhan Shringla on the Republic Day Reception, 26 January 2018
His Excellency Mr. Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, Hon’ble Foreign Minister of Bangladesh and our Chief Guest;
Hon’ble Ministers of the Government of Bangladesh and Advisors to Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh;
High Constitutional Personalities;
Members of Parliament;
Representatives of the Bangladesh Armed Forces;
Representatives of the Civil Services;
Cultural and academic personalities;
My distinguished colleagues Their Excellencies, Heads of Missions in Dhaka and
My fellow Indians
It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you on the occasion of the 69th Republic Day of India. This morning in New Delhi, the Republic Day was celebrated with a ceremonial parade at the main avenue in Rajpath and the President of India, as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, took the salute from the military. The celebration was graced with the presence of the leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) as chief guests.
2. 26th January is celebrated as the Republic Day of India as on this day in 1950 we, the people of India, gave ourselves our Constitution and founded the Republic of India. It was the culmination of the long struggle of our founding fathers against colonial rule and the desire to establish a democratic country grounded on the values of liberty, equality, fraternity, social justice and secularism. These values continue to guide the efforts of our Government as it strives to promote the well-being of its people.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
3. In the last 9 years, India and Bangladesh have been able to make more progress in furthering bilateral relations than we could in the preceding years. Today, our relations are multi-faceted and cover cooperation in a wide spectrum of areas including security and border management; trade, commerce and investment; connectivity; energy and power; space; developmental projects; culture; and greater people-to-people exchanges.
4. The visit of the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina, to India in April 2017 added a new chapter to our relations, which Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi described as heralding of a ‘Sonali Adhyay’ or a ‘Golden Era’ in our ties. The Joint Statement adopted by the two Prime Ministers during the visit of the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh affirmed that the “relations between India and Bangladesh are based on fraternal ties and reflective of an all-encompassing partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust and understanding that goes far beyond a strategic partnership”.
5. During the visit of the PM, the two countries concluded 36 agreements including 13 business agreements. Together with the 22 agreements signed during the visit of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to Bangladesh in June 2015, a total of 60 bilateral documents have been signed in a span of two and half years. It demonstrates the breadth and depth of our bilateral relationship and underlines the vast potential that exists for further cooperation.
6. The year 2017 saw several landmark developments in the areas of development cooperation, cross-border connectivity, and commencement of cooperation in new areas such as space and cyber-security. With the extension of a third Line of Credit of USD 5 billion dollars, Bangladesh became the largest development partner of India. The two Prime Ministers jointly inaugurated two important infrastructure projects in Bangladesh – the second Bhairab railway bridge and the second railway bridge over Titas river – completed under the first Line of Credit from India to Bangladesh. In line with our Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ or ‘Development for All’, which encompasses our neighbouring countries as well, India remains committed to continue its role as development partner of Bangladesh and fully supports Bangladesh’s vision of becoming a middle income country by 2021 and a developed country by 2041.
7. Giving further push to connectivity, the two Prime Ministers also jointly flagged off a new passenger train service between Khulna and Kolkata – the Bandhan Express – and announced end-to-end immigration and customs facilities for passengers of the Maitree Express on the Kolkata-Dhaka route. The rail link between Radhikapur (India) and Birol (Bangladesh) was also restored, and with this we have now revived four of the six rail links that existed between the two countries before 1965. A new bus service on the Kolkata-Khulna-Dhaka route also commenced operations this year. The two Prime Ministers, along with the leaders of Afghanistan, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, also jointly launched the South Asia Satellite in May 2017.
8. We also continued to lay strong emphasis on strengthening people-to-people contacts by taking further initiatives to improve access to India visas for Bangladesh nationals. The number of visas issued by the High Commission of India has nearly doubled from 7.5 lakh in 2015 to 14 lakh in 2017.
9. The year concluded on a high note with the visits of the External Affairs Minister of India, Smt. Sushma Swaraj and the Finance & Corporate Affairs Minister of India, Shri Arun Jaitely to Bangladesh. Our External Affairs Minister underlined the importance India attaches to Bangladesh by stating that, in India’s Neighbourhood First policy, Bangladesh stood foremost. We have also had a good start to 2018 with the Hon’ble Foreign Minister of Bangladesh having visited India earlier this month at the invitation of our External Affairs Minister.
Ladies and gentlemen,
10. I wish to thank you for joining us in our celebrations tonight. I thank the Hon’ble Foreign Minister profoundly, for taking time out from his busy schedule and gracing this occasion with is presence.
I wish you a pleasant and enjoyable evening. Joy Bangla and Jai Hind.