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Transcript of Special Press Briefing by Foreign Secretary after Prime Minister’s visit to Bangladesh (March 27, 2021)

March 28, 2021

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for being here. Sorry for the delay. The discussions continued. As you are aware, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is here on a two-day visit. He will be leaving later today evening. This briefing is about what the visit has been about. And I know all of you have been asking questions for outcomes etc. It is a great privilege to have Foreign Secretary of India, Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla with us here today. We also have with us High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh, H.E. Vikram Doraiswami, as well as on my left we have Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs looking after Bangladesh and Myanmar relations, Mrs. Smita Pant. We will request Foreign Secretary to make opening statement and after that we will take some questions. There is a paucity of time I'm afraid because we are leaving on flight today. We will try to take a few questions as many as we can but please understand if we cannot. We'll have some ground rules; I’ll go over them as soon as Foreign Secretary completes his opening statement.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary:
Namaskar and Good evening and it is very good to see all of our friends from the media both from Bangladesh and India. The Prime Minister is just concluding what has been a very productive and very important state visit to Bangladesh. This is the occasion, the Prime Minister referred to as a triveni, the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Bangladesh, the 50th anniversary of the Bangladesh Liberation War and of course, Mujib Borsho, the 100th birth anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The Prime Minister’s two day programme was substantive, historically symbolic and very special and it included many diverse elements. I will brief you on the outline of the visit and its significance before we take questions. So on the programme, very briefly, the Prime Minister was welcomed on arrival at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. He was accorded a ceremonial state welcome. He then visited the National Martyrs Memorial at Savar, where he was received by the Liberation War Affairs Minister; Mr AKM. Mozammel Haque who as is the senior most Minister in the cabinet of Bangladesh and also a valiant freedom fighter. In keeping with the political and social diversity of Bangladesh, the Prime Minister interacted with community leaders, members of the 14-party Alliance, opposition party, youth icons and valiant Mukhtijoddhas.

The Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen called on the Prime Minister, later during the day. The Prime Minister attended the National Day celebration of Bangladesh as the guest of honour. This was a profound recognition of India's role in the Liberation War, and also of the special ties we share with Bangladesh. During his speech, the Prime Minister paid respect to the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, and countless Bangladeshis and Indians who had laid down their lives in the liberation struggle. There was a lot of emphasis on the fact that we are both young nations, we have young populations. In that context, there was a lot of focus on how we can incorporate on youth related affairs. It is in this context that the Prime Minister announced a grant of 1000 Subarno Jayanti Scholarships for youth to study in India. He also invited 50 young entrepreneurs from Bangladesh, to visit India and present their ideas to venture capitalists. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in her speech at the National Day and of course, the speech was telecast live but just to recap, recall the role of the people and Government of India in the evolution process of Bangladesh. And I quote her, "self-sacrifice, support and cooperation of the people of India during the Liberation War will never be forgotten.” She lauded the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy of Prime Minister Modi, and said that India sending COVID vaccines to its neighbours was a reflection of that policy.

Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Rehana and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina received the Gandhi Peace Prize which was conferred posthumously on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by the Prime Minister of India. As a mark of admiration that India has for Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the renowned Hindustani classical vocalist Pandit Ajay Chakraborty, at the national day event created a special raag dedicated to Bangabandhu, Raag maitri. Later both the Prime Ministers inaugurated the Bangladesh leg of the Bangabandhu-Bapu Digital Exhibition. Apart from displaying uniquely research historic photographs and commonalities in life of these great leaders, this exhibition also showcases perhaps the only photo that has both Bangabandhu and Bapu in one frame. We plan to take this exhibition to many countries and again this was discussed in the last meeting that both the Prime Ministers had just a short while ago and we decided that both countries will jointly also take it to the United Nations as part of our shared commitment to world peace and against oppression. Thereafter, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina hosted a banquet in honour of Prime Minister Modi.

This morning, Prime Minister Modi visited Satkhira and offered prayers at the Jeshoreshwari Kali Temple, one of the 51 shakti peeths in the puranic tradition. During his visit, he also announced a grant for the construction of a cyclone shelter cum community centre in Satkhira. It's a cyclone shelter cum community centre because when it is not used as cyclone shelter, which we hope will be very rare, it'll be used as a community centre for the benefit to those communities that are there. This is of course a cyclone prone area of Bangladesh. Next visit of the Prime Minister was to the Bangabandhu Mausoleum complex at Tungipara where he was received by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana and again this was conveyed in the meeting where we just came off where Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that Prime Minister Modi was the first head of government to pay his respects to Bangabandhu, at his Mausoleum in Tungipara. In other words, the first foreign high dignitary to visit Tungipara in person. In Orakandi, the Prime Minister visited thereafter, he met representatives of the Matua community and during his last visit as you would recall in 2015, the Prime Minister had expressed interest to visit Thakurbari of this community and he was therefore happy that he could do it this time. The Prime Minister announced plans to support upgradation of a middle school for girls and the construction of a primary school in the Orakandi area, in cooperation with the local government authorities. Now with regard to the bilateral discussions, this evening and just before we have come here, we have held extensive and restricted format discussions and delegation level talks. This allowed the two Prime Ministers to take stock of progress in various areas, different diverse areas in which we cooperate. This included some discussion on how we could preserve the legacy and spirit of 1971, commerce and connectivity, cooperation and water resources, security, defence, power and energy and new areas like artificial intelligence, environment, societal applications of nuclear energy etc. Lots of different areas but also new areas which are very important, what our Prime Minister called ‘Nayi Urja, Nayi gati’ (new energy, new path).

Significant decisions were also taken during a special year like the establishment of the Bangabandhu chair in Delhi University, renaming the Bangladesh segment of the road "Svadheenta Sadak", the road on which the senior leadership of Bangladesh travelled to take the oath at Mujib Nagar during the liberation struggle in 1971. It is a very historic and famous event which both our countries share very, very intimately. The Prime Minister also proposed that India and Bangladesh should organise a business exhibition which he referred to as the ‘Best of India Best of Bangladesh’, during this very special year. So we see a lot of emphasis again on youth, on business, on connectivity and of course on the spirit of 1971, which is always there. Both Prime Ministers jointly unveiled stamps that were respectively issued by the postal departments of our countries marking this momentous occasion. They decided to celebrate the 6th of December, the day on which India formally recognised Bangladesh as Maitri Divas. The Prime Minister thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for erecting a war memorial in Bangladesh at Ashuganj, in recognition of the contribution of Indian soldiers who were martyred during the Liberation War of Bangladesh. Both Prime Ministers also laid a foundation stone for Bangladesh's proposal to construct this memorial in the honour of Indian soldiers.

A decision was also taken to celebrate our ties jointly in 19 countries. 19 countries are identified by two sides, and this is a reflection of our desire to sustain the legacy of 1971. In terms of the inauguration of different projects, as we know, from time to time, the two Prime Ministers have been inaugurating a number of projects including, last December when there was a virtual summit. It also illustrates the level of our cooperation and the successful evolution of the development partnership between our two countries. In this context, the Prime Ministers laid the foundation stone for five packages of the Rooppur power evacuation project, which is an important component of the third line of credit that India has extended to Bangladesh. There are a total of eight packages and for five packages foundation stone has been laid. And this transmission line, it costs over a billion dollars. This is a very important component that I mentioned.

The two Prime Ministers also inaugurated three border haats on the borders between our two countries, and, of course new facilities that at the Rabindra Bhabhan at Kuthibari with Indian grant assistance. To further strengthen people to people connectivity, the two sides have also agreed to start a new passenger train service which is called Mitali Express between New Jalpaiguri and Dhaka, starting from Dhaka cantonment on the recently restored Chilahati-Haldibari rail links, as you know in December, the two Prime Ministers inaugurated this fifth or the sixth rail links that existed prior to 1965. It's a very important rail link that connects North Bangladesh with North Bengal in the state of West Bengal. And starting this passenger service really is a recreation of what used to happen before 1965. The train will commence the operation once normal train services resume between the two countries as you know there is the suspension norm because of the COVID.

Earlier this month, both Prime Ministers have jointly inaugurated the Maitri Setu, the road bridge connecting Tripura with Bangladesh on the Feni river became very, very important point of connectivity between our two countries. A number of agreements and Memorandums of Understanding were also signed during the visit. These are in areas of disaster management, trade remedial measures, two development partnership projects, and between the National Cadet Corps of our two countries. The entire list of different agreements signed, different deliverables etc in great detail will be given to you shortly. Health sector has been very important between our two countries as our two countries combat COVID. As we work together and cooperate together in fighting the challenge of COVID, our health cooperation resumed a great importance and to reinforce this cooperation India announced the gifting of 109 life support ambulances to support Bangladesh's plans to strengthen its medical emergency response systems. So the formal handing over was done symbolically by Prime Minister. Prime Minister Modi also handed over the key of the first ambulance to the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the function just before this.

Both Prime Ministers were also happy to note that India and Bangladesh have been able to move forward with an efficient and effective policy responses to contain the spread of the pandemic and of course, in the spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which is the world is one family. India had launched its Vaccine Maitri programme, Prime Minister Modi recalled his earlier assurance to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that Bangladesh will continue to get high priority in this regard. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina thanked the Prime Minister Modi for providing 102 million doses or one crore two lakh doses of vaccines of which 32 lakhs have been delivered as gifts under grant in aid and the rest is commercial. Bangladesh is the largest recipient of made in India vaccines and this again illustrates our priority that we attach to Bangladesh is our closest neighbour and of course is in consonance with our act with our Neighbourhood First policy that we are implementing and of course this figure of 1.02 crores includes the 12 lakh doses or 1.2 million doses that the Prime Minister gifted personally on arrival in Bangladesh from India’s own supplies.

After the meeting with the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister also called on H.E. Mr Abdul Hamid, President of the people's republic of Bangladesh. They had a very cordial conversation. Prime Minister thanked him for his consistent support and guidance in the furtherance of India Bangladesh ties. So as you can see it has been an extensive programme. It was the Prime Minister's first visit overseas since the outbreak of the COVID pandemic. I think he has not travelled for a year and a half outside India and this is reflective of the highest importance we attach to Bangladesh in accordance with our Neighbourhood First and Act East policies. In terms of development cooperation, a quick snapshot I want to give you.

Prime Minister Modi congratulated Bangladesh on its upcoming graduation from LDC status. He affirmed a strong, stable and prosperous Bangladesh is the role model for the entire South Asian region. India is committed to continue giving support to Bangladesh at every step of the way ahead be it in infrastructure development, capacity building or in the areas of health capacity building or power generation. Our lines of credit have not only helped in infrastructure development and connectivity but also in green projects and there are a number of projects that have been undertaken in this area, there are also projects in new and emerging areas such as high tech parks in 12 districts, solid waste management etc. that are being implemented and we are expanding our cooperation in new areas like civil nuclear cooperation and we are keen to work together in the area of space.

Prime Minister Modi was to visit Bangladesh last year at the start of Mujib Borsho. As you are aware this could not happen due to the COVID pandemic. He is happy that he could fulfil his promise to visit Bangladesh this year since the Prime Minister’s last visit to Bangladesh in 2015, India and Bangladesh relationship has grown stronger and more multifaceted. Today our ties transcend even a strategic partnership, that we could attain progress in several areas even while the COVID pandemic was raging is a testimony to our shared desire to move forward for the good of both our people. In closing, the visit of the Prime Minister was historic, given the commemorative aspects of the triveni, the three epochal events; it was rich in substance, as both sides held comprehensive discussions in all areas of cooperation and deeply meaningful in historic symbolism.

Both Prime Ministers also had multiple locations to interact. It was also an opportunity for Prime Minister to explore the diversity and beauty of the land of Bangladesh, something that he has wanted to do and something that he spoke about at length after his travels today. During the talks it was conveyed to us by the Bangladesh delegation that no Head of State or Government had actually visited areas outside Dhaka. The Prime Minister today visited three different locations in Bangladesh including locations that were relatively rural and remote from that perspective. In short this visit is the true reflection of our uniquely close and friendly ties and it has further consolidated the chapter of our Shonali Adhyaya. Thank you.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you sir for the comprehensive briefing on the visit of the Prime Minister. Before beginning the questions since I see many faces of Bangladeshi friends, we have basic ground rules i.e. one question per person. If you have a related question you can intervene then. Please introduce yourself and organisations that you belong to before you ask the question and we may not be able to accommodate all the questions given that it is already close to eight o'clock. So, let me start. I see you gentleman. Please go ahead.

Journalist 1: Sir, Mein Pranay Upadhyay ABP News se, Mera Sawal is cheez ko lekar hai ki, Bangladesh ke saath jo Nuclear Powered Rooppur Power Plant ke infrastructure development mein Bharat ke sahyog par samjhauta hua hai, usme Bharat ki kya bhumika hogi aur space ko lekar jaise aapne chinhit kiya, kya space ke kshetra mein kisi naye prastav par batchit hui hai?

(Questioned in Hindi; App.Translation) I am Pranay Upadhyay from ABP News, My question is, ‘What will be India’s role in the agreement which India has signed with Bangladesh on the infrastructure development of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant and as you highlighted about space, did we talk about any new proposal?

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Hamari jo line of credit hai, Third Line of Credit, usmein se ek kaafi bada evam mahatvapurna hissa civil nuclear cooperation ki disha mein jaiga aur jo aapne kaha, Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant ke jo evacuation lines hain, ye jab power plant banega to evacuation of power ke liye Transmission Lines banegi, wo Bhartiye company karengi. Line of Credit se aur ye jo transmission lines honge, inka total value one million dollar se jyada hoga. Aur space mein jo prashna aapne poocha, Space mein hamara cooperation bhi hai, jaise aapne dekha hai ki South Asia satellite ka coverage bhi Bangladesh mein, uski cooperation tele-medicine, tele-education mein chaal rahi hai. Uske bawjud bhi hum doosre areas mein cooperation ke bare mein hamari charcha chal rahi hai, to usme hum dekhenge ki hum aur kya kar sakte hein. Dono sides me kaafi interest hai ki space mein hamare jo cooperation hai who badhaya jaye, to usmein hum aapko aage badhne ke baad batainge. (Answered in Hindi; App.Translation) Major portion of our Third line of credit will go towards civil nuclear cooperation and as you said, the transmission lines for evacuation of power at Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant will be erected by Indian companies. The total value of the line of credit for the transmission lines will be more than one million dollar. The question with regard to ‘Space’ you asked, you must have seen that our cooperation in space where the South Asian Satellite is already providing coverage to Bangladesh also with cooperation in the areas of tele-medicine, tele-education etc. Other than these discussions are going on for cooperation in other areas too and we shall see what more we can do in this regard. Both sides are equally interested to increase the cooperation in the field of ‘Space’, and we shall keep you updated on new developments.

Journalist 2: My question is with regard to connectivity that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told us few days back that Prime Minister was supposed to request India to increase connectivity between Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh. So any comments on that. Thank you.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Well you know, there is already very active cooperation and collaboration between India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh under the BBIN. Sometimes they're doing it in a triangular way, India, Bhutan, Bangladesh and sometimes India, Nepal and Bangladesh, but India and Bangladesh are normally always there in this cooperation. We spoke about a motor vehicle agreement that is fairly in an advanced stage, we want to take it further. And of course, we are also facilitating the Bangladesh exports to both these countries through India. We already have some established transit routes; the proposal for other routes is also under examination. So this is an active area of ongoing discussion. And an ongoing cooperation will only increase in time to come. There is great potential for sub regional cooperation in different ways. And this is an area where we will see a fair amount of movement, even greater movement than what we already have.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you sir.

Journalist 3: Sir was there any conversation around the Teesta treaty.

Journalist 4: Can I add this question?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Yeah. Please.

Journalist 4: Just a minute ago, Bangladeshi Foreign minister said that the Bangladeshi Prime Minister repeatedly and very strongly raised the Issue of Teesta treaty with Prime Minister Modi, what is the position and what is the answer and we know that there is no treaty or agreement in this issue, but there are some informal issues that have been discussed between the two Prime Ministers, we just want to know that.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Between our two close countries and two close sides, we have always had conversations on all issues. And of course, you're right that the teesta issue was discussed, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina did refer to the Teesta issue. Prime Minister Modi reiterated India's sincere and continued efforts to conclude this agreement in consultation with the relevant stakeholders. The Indian side also requested for an early finalisation of the draft of the interim agreement for sharing of river waters of the Feni River appending to the Bangladesh side, which had been agreed by both sides in 2011. And so, river waters cooperation is something in which we have extensive cooperation. Today our two countries cooperate extensively on the 56 rivers that flow between our countries. The cooperation is in areas that are very diverse e.g use of water for drinking, for irrigation, pollution control, flood control, there are lot of areas. In fact, Bangladesh side also offered some capacity building in areas in which they have strength example embankment construction etc. So river waters cooperation is important. We just had a meeting of the water resources Secretaries of our two countries in New Delhi, under the auspices of the Joint Rivers Commission. It was an excellent meeting that went into all of these things. So, we are meeting regularly, we are talking about all these issues that are important, including the Teesta issue that you mentioned.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Gentlemen over there.

Journalist 5: Hi, Thank you for attending the Birth centenary of our Father of nation, 50th anniversary of our independence as well as 50 years of diplomatic relations. So my question is that when the Indian Prime Minister, in his first visit after the pandemic, visited Bangladesh and joined the historic celebration, and also today has visited one of the very famous place of the Matua community at Orakandi. The political analysts both in the West Bengal and Bangladesh, section of political analyst, observed that Indian Prime Minister embarked on the visit on two missions one is furthering the bilateral relations as well as in context of West Bengal elections. So what is your take on this particular issue of the election in West Bengal, and his visit to Orakandi. Thank you.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Well, I mentioned a short while ago that the Prime Minister had actually expressed a desire to visit ThakurBari in Orakandi as well as the Satkhira Kali Jeshoreshwari temple when he came in 2015. This has always been a desire of his to visit these two places. In fact, he talked also about visiting Kuthibari and other places. Now, he was very happy that at least two of the places that he wanted to visit could materialise during this particular visit. He could not go to Kuthibari, but as we saw that he and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina actually inaugurated the completed renovation of that very important heritage area and monument that both our countries treasure. So what I am trying to say is that, this is something that was part of the plan for a long time. And it's something that I think was as we have seen in the in the context of our shared history, shared spiritual links, shared cultural links. I remember in 2012, we had all gone to Tripura when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Tripura and it was the recreation in many senses of the spirit of 1971 when Tripura had harboured so many people and when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina went to the parade ground there, you could not see the end of it, there were so many people that you could not see then end of it. Why I'm mentioning this is that I'm trying to bring you the spirit of what our two countries represent. We are not countries that just go to capitals, meet each other and go back and have meetings in drawing room and go back. We are countries that have so much of a shared history, so much of a shared cultural legacy, that we visit each other's countries to different parts of the country. We just met the honourable President and he recalled that he'd visited the Garo hills, and Thula Hills and I went with him. And I’m trying to tell you that this captures the essence. So we should not look at these things in narrow context, I think it has to be seen in the larger context that our two countries stand for and represent.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Gentlemen.

Journalist 6: Foreign Secretary there is lot of focus on connectivity, projects in connectivity. What about larger and regional connectivity, trans regional connectivity, for example, Bangladesh has signed on to BVI, we have our own model of connectivity. Also, in this connection, what about cooperation in SAARC, BIMSTEC and cooperation in regional fora for promoting connectivity.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Well, the two Prime Minister spoke about the extensive cooperation that we had in regional organisations and they referred to in particular BIMSTEC, IORA, SAARC, to a number of other organisations that we are both members of . The BVI and of course, is part of that. Essentially, what we are coming down to is that we have the idea of expanding connectivity. We are now talking about connectivity that links our two countries. But we are also talking about connectivity that is beyond our two countries. There was a reference to the trilateral highway between India, Myanmar and Thailand, for example, there was a reference to other areas of connectivity beyond our two countries. Now, all this will happen in good time. But what is important is that we have to focus on ensuring that at least between our two countries we make up for 35-40 years of lost time and accelerate the pace of our development in terms of infrastructure and connectivity for this that link our two economy, link our two people.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thanks. Sir.

Journalist 7: Thank you for coming to Bangladesh. I'd like to ask you a question about people to people connection while you were High Commissioner here; Visa process was made easier for the Bangladeshi people. Was any type of discussion held today about that. Basically as we know a lot of Bangladeshi people go to India for medical treatment probably. So was it included in today’s meeting. Thank you.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Well, Rashid Bhai you know that one of the greatest areas of success that we've had has been in facilitating easier travel between our two countries. The number of visas that were issued per year has gone up from 5 lakhs a year to 16 lakhs a year, if I'm not mistaken. Today, I think the High Commissioner attaches great interest to ensuring that visas for medical purposes, for business purposes except for tourism we are giving other forms of visa, tourism is not there because of the COVID situation once it gets better that will also be resumed. We've had travel bubbles created specifically so that there are flights on a regular basis between Indian cities and Bangladeshi cities particularly in Dhaka and we give a lot of emphasis to ensure that those who are applying for medical visa, not only them but their attendant’s also get visas. There was some discussion with the different groups. The Prime Minister has met extensive number of groups in all the places he's travelled, he's met a number of groups in Dhaka and some of them had some ideas which were discussed and this is part of our ongoing cooperation and progress that we will make in all of these areas.

Journalist 8: My question is- what was that key message of Prime Minister Modi during this visit and what message you got from Bangladesh Government?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Sorry this is a related question?

Journalist 9: No.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Then please wait.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Prime Minister said very interesting phrase he said "Nayi Urja Nayi gati” (new energy- new pathways). What he's talking about is that we need to not only continue the momentum but we need to accelerate the movement and both Prime Ministers agreed that in today's context we are meeting on a very, very happy, very historic, very momentous occasion. Our two countries have shared which very few countries together can share. What can we do further, how can we look at not just a few years now but you know a plan for 2030 for example. All of this was part of the discussions that we had that and that we planned for the future. The Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina spoke about planning for the next 50 years that we will cooperate together. Let us look 50 years. What I'm trying to say is that the discussions have been on realising that not only have we made tremendous progress but that we can make much more progress. So you need a new energy for that, you need new pathways and that is I would say the essence of what the Prime Minister had to say. Of course he said a lot more but just to summarise the general spirit of what he mentioned.

Journalist 9: Thank you. You've just said that look at next 50 years at this point of time. During the bilateral meeting of Prime Minister, both leaders shared their vision. What is the vision for the next few years?

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Well, you will make me a visionary from that point of view but I think the vision is already there. Both the Prime Ministers don't look at the relationship as something that is for the present. They're looking at it what it is for the future generation. So if you see a lot of the areas of cooperation that I spoke about for example inviting 50 entrepreneurs of Bangladesh to tap the venture capital potential in India, look at starting businesses in new and critical technologies for example, looking at thousand swarn jayanti scholarships that would enable young people and energise them to go and study in areas that they are interested in, in the education fields in India. We are looking at collaboration in areas like nuclear energy and space but we also spoke about artificial intelligence, big data. We spoke about new internet age, we spoke about technology 4.0. Prime Minister Modi mentioned these areas as areas where young people, the youth of our countries, the future of our countries. You're talking about what can we see in 20-30 years then we have to invest in the future. If you see the youth dedication that goes from Bangladesh that is part and I think this is something that is important. This is tapping the potential of our young people is where the two Prime Ministers see the future 10- 20 years from today.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you sir.

Journalist 10: Thank you. Have the two leaders discussed about the Rohingya issue?

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Yes, I think this is a very important issue that had to be discussed. As you know India is the only country that has a common border with both Bangladesh and Myanmar so this is an issue that does come up and should come up. I think there was an understanding between both sides that Bangladesh had done a lot to provide shelter and refuge to over a million displaced persons from the Rakhine state in Myanmar. That in in your efforts we have provided five branches of humanitarian assistance we will continue to work with you in order to elevate your responsibilities in that regard. We have also worked in Myanmar under the Rakhine state development programme to create infrastructure that will facilitate the safe, speedy and sustainable return of these displaced persons back to their homes. We've created 250 houses already in areas where they live and I'm told that even among the 109 ambulances that we just gifted, a few of them are earmarked for the camps in which these displaced persons are housed. There was also a sense that India has been happy to facilitate any forward movement in the repatriation of displaced persons back to their homes in Rakhine state. This is something that we have discussed with both Myanmar and Bangladesh. This is something that we have worked with both sides and trying to facilitate. We have always been happy to assist in a manner that is constructive, that secures the goal of safe, speedy and sustainable return and this is something we will continue to do in working with both sides. So this was certainly raised and discussed and I think this is something that both our countries will continue to strive, attaching great importance to in the coming months.

Journalist 11: My question is that you have already talked about the Rohingya Repatriation issues. Bangladesh government has constructed a beautiful place for their repatriation for around 1 lakh Rohingyas-- (inaudible). So what is the stand of India about ___ (39:49 inaudible) which was discussed with the two leaders.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: No I must say it was not discussed and of course I mean what plans you had and how you take care of. Our role as a supporting role we are happy to work with you, we're happy to cooperate and happy to facilitate any of your actions that are designed to not only take care of such a large number of displaced persons but also to see how they can ultimately find their way as soon as possible back to their original home.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Sir given the paucity of time, we'll just take one or two more questions. Gentleman there.

Journalist 12: Sir this is Abhishek Kapoor from Republic TV. My question is about security situation discussed last month, NIA booked, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, Bangladesh operative as far as in Bengaluru and last week we saw in Bangladesh convicting some boys over bomb attack on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Was security situation discussed?

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Well defence and security issues were discussed. It was one of the items that we discussed. I think both sides felt that we had an excellent cooperation in these areas that we had tremendous exchanges in all of these areas. We just had a meeting of the Home Secretaries. So details of the type that you're asking are actually discussed at the Home Secretary level, at the BGP- BSF level, at the different institutional levels of cooperation that we had. At the highest levels we only emphasise how important that cooperation was and how successful it was going and if I can slightly go back to the same question that you asked I think that you asked for the UN security council, yes and that's correct that we are members of the security council, we are trying to play a constructive role in getting balanced outcomes in the council in a manner that is able to reflect as much as possible the ethos that we see as a close neighbour of both Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Sir final question.

Journalist 13: Myself Sidhant from WION. MY question is India and Bangladesh are supposed to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relationship in 19 countries. Are these countries in South Asia? And my second question is how do you see Bangladesh as an economic miracle?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: One question please. Only one. Let’s take the first one or second one whichever you choose.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Well I will try to give short answers to both the questions. You know as far as an economic miracle is concerned I think the Prime Minister emphasised that Bangladesh's success in graduating out of the LDC status, a success economically, in socio economic terms is one that was you know a paradigm for the whole of South Asia. There's a great deal of appreciation of what has been achieved and I think , as Bangladesh, we believe in a strong stable secure and prosperous Bangladesh, as Bangladesh grows economically I think we can only rejoice in that because we will also benefit. Whatever happens to you happens to us; whatever happens to us also happens to you so that there is a mutuality in this. There are of course as we mentioned 19 countries I know that the number sounds a little arbitrary but they are countries from all over the world you know from Europe, Southeast Asia, America, Africa there are continents all over the world that are covered in this endeavour. Our idea is not to establish this in some countries but to go and spread this message. Prime Minister felt that Bangabandhu’s message and his contribution and the contribution of his family has not been amply recognised and amply reflected in the international domain and both India and Bangladesh would work to amplify that message of these two great leaders of our two countries and that's the basic idea and that's how we will we intend to take it to many countries all over the world.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much sir for sparing so much time. That brings us to the conclusion of this press conference. Thank you for your presence ladies and gentlemen. Goodnight.


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