India always priorities Bangladesh: Modi

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Dhaka, Dec 17: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said his country always priorities Bangladesh as New Delhi follows neighborhood first policy.

“Strengthening and deepening relation with Bangladesh has been a priority for me from the very first day in office,” he said in his introductory speech in a Bangladesh-India virtual summit.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led the Bangladesh delegation from her official Ganabhaban residence here while Narendra Modi led the Indian delegation joining the summit online from New Delhi.

Noting that this year has been very challenging due to the global pandemic (Covid-19), Narendra Modi said it is a matter of satisfaction that in this difficult time there has been good cooperation between India and Bangladesh.

“Whether it relates to medicine or medical equipment or health professionals working together. . . We have had good cooperation between us in the area of vaccines as well,” she said, adding, “I would like to pay special attention to all your requirements.”

Apart from health, the Indian premier said, a partnership has continuously moved forward this year in other sectors as well.

He said they have managed to reduce obstacles to land border trade while connectivity has been improved between both the countries.

“New means have been added and all these demonstrate the desire to strengthen our relationship further,” he pointed out.

Praising Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Narendra Modi said, “Your (Sheikh Hasina) personal commitment towards bilateral relations is also very clear to see.”

On the occasion of “Mujib Borsha” (Mujib Year), he conveyed his best wishes on behalf of all Indians, saying “Mujib Chirantan. Bangabandhu’s message is eternal and it is with this sentiment that we honor his legacy.”

“Bangabandhu’s legacy is clearly reflected in your (Sheikh Hasina) great leadership,” he added.

The Indian premier said it is a matter of pride for him to have the opportunity today to release with Sheikh Hasina a postage stamp in honor of Bangabandhu and inaugurate digital exhibition on Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi) and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

“I hope this exhibition of Bapu and Bangabandhu will inspire our youth that has a special section on Kasturba Gandhi and also respected Bangamata (Bangamata Sheikh Fojilatunnesa Mujib),” he said.

On the occasion of the 49th independence anniversary of Bangladesh, Narendra Modi said he paid homage at the national war memorials and lit gold victory torch.

Besides, he said, they are celebrating the golden victory from the 16th of December onwards during which several programs will be organized across India.

The Indian Prime Minister also thanked Sheikh Hasina for her invitation to visit Bangladesh next year, saying “It will be an honor for me to pay tribute to Bangabandhu along with you.”

After their opening remarks, both Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi jointly inaugurated resumption of the Chilahati-Haldibari rail link alongside releasing a commemorative stamp issued by the Postal Department of India in honor of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Apart from this, the two premiers jointly inaugurated the Bangabandhu-Bapu Digital Exhibition in New Delhi to show respect to the contributions of the two greatest leaders –Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Mahatma Gandhi – of the last century.

Prior to the bilateral talks between Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi, Bangladesh and India inked seven memorandums of understanding (MoUs) on different issues in Dhaka.

The signed documents are: Framework of understanding on cooperation in hydrocarbon sector, framework agreement on “high impact community development projects, protocol on trans-boundary elephant conservation, MoU on supply of equipment and improvement of garbage/solid waste disposal ground in Barishal City Corporation, MoU on cooperation in the field of agriculture, MoU between the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Museum, Dhaka and National Museum, New Delhi, and terms of reference of India-Bangladesh CEOs Forum.