Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina suggested the South Asian countries to ensure mutual trust and respect among all communities and countries overcoming “misperceptions and false apprehensions” aiming to strengthen regional cooperation and development.
“In the past decades, we’ve seen many lofty regional ideas and initiatives. Some succeeded, others could not deliver,” she said placing four principles to follow in the next decades with much emphasis on managing geo-political realities through friendship and collaboration.
The Prime Minister made the remarks at the closing plenary of the two-day India Economic Summit of the World Economic Forum, held at Hotel Taj Palace here.
Inspired by his visionary ideas of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and driven by his belief in shared prosperity and responsibility, Bangladesh continues to champion regional cooperation like Bimstec, Saarc, BBIN and BCIM, she said. Talking about the first principle, the Prime Minister said, “We must strive to secure peace, stability and harmony, for every individual across our societies. We must move beyond the majority– minority mindset.”
She said pluralism has been a strength of South Asia for centuries. “So, we should be able to celebrate South Asia’s diversities in religion, ethnicity and language. This is fundamental.”Placing the third principle, the Prime Minister said mutual trust and mutual respect between all communities and countries is the key. “We need to get over misperceptions and false apprehensions.”
She said Bangladesh has consistently been contributing to international peace and security in global spheres, emanating from our policy of “Friendship to all, Malice to none”, as laid out by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. “This approach helped us maintain good relations with all countries.”
Hasina mentioned that Bangladesh resolved sharing of the Ganges river water with India in 1996. “We amicably delimited our maritime boundary with India and Myanmar. Bangladesh and India are now developing trans-boundary river navigation. We’re buying power from India through inter-country grid connections,” she said.The Prime Minister said such collaborative culture is essential across their politics, economy and society.
Placing the second principles, she said, “We must ensure that inequality across societies do not widen in times of faster growth. Wealth creation should be inclusive and must trickle down to the bottom millions. Less developed communities or countries should not lag behind. We must deliver to the aspirations and demands of our youths. We need to hold hands of ‘others’ across South Asia through our knowledge – experience – expertise – investments.”
Describing the fourth principle, Hasina said, “We must manage our geo-political realities through friendship and collaboration. Let us appreciate and balance regional political realties for the interest of our peoples. We cannot trade off long-term interests for short-term gains.”
The Prime Minister said South Asia must emerge as a connected, friendly and competitive region always ready to build bridges with other regions.
Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore Heng Swee Keat, Managing Director of Sequoia Capital India Shailendra Singh, Executive Vice Chairperson of Apollo Hospital Enterprise Shobana Karmineni, Chairwoman of Booking.com Gillian Tans were panelists at the event.
Replying to a query from the moderator of the event, Prime Minister Hasina said Bangladesh is attaching priority to establish connectivity among the South Asia, South East Asia and others to promote trade and commerce in the region.She said Bangabandhu had realised the importance of enhancing connectivity for the prosperity of the region.
Sheikh Hasina said her government is working to restore the previous connectivity which was suspended after 1965. “We always think about it. We can make a bridge in this region and beyond the region,” she said, adding that Bangladesh is playing its role in establishing the Asian highway and Asian railway network.
Describing poverty as a common enemy, Hasina said all countries in the region should work together to fight the menace.“We have the ability to do it and we’ll definitely do it,” she said.