Sheikh Hasina, now in New Delhi on a four-day official visit to India

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has compared Bangladesh-India relations with a flowing river and expressed her optimism to solve all pending issues.

“Mexican Nobel Laureate Octavio said ‘Friendship is a river’. I think that the friendship between Bangladesh and India is like a flowing river and full with generosity. This is the spirit of the people of the two neighbours,” she wrote in an article published in “The Hindu”, a leading Indian newspaper Friday.

Sheikh Hasina, now in New Delhi on a four-day official visit to India, added: “I think if our commitments are honest, we would be able to achieve many things that are beneficial to our people.”

The premier mentioned that she believes in peace and said that only peaceful co-existence can ensure peace.

“There are some issues between us (Bangladesh and India). But I believe that any problem can be resolved in a peaceful manner. We have demonstrated our willpower through the implementation of the Land Boundary Agreement,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said there are some more issues like sharing of waters of the common rivers (the Teesta issue is currently under discussion) that need to be resolved. “I’m an optimistic person. I would like to rest my trust on the goodwill of the great people and the leaders of our neighbour. I know resources are scarce, but we can share those for the benefit of the people of both countries,” she said.

The Bangladesh premier extended her heartiest greetings to the people of India on the eve of her four-day trip and hoped that the cooperative relations between Bangladesh and India would reach a new height through this visit.

“On the eve of my four-day visit to India, I myself, and on behalf of my countrymen, would like to convey the heartiest greetings to the people of Inda. I hope that the cooperative relations between Bangladesh and India would reach a new height through my visit,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh and India share the same culture and heritage and there are a lot of commonalities (at least with West Bengal).

“We share our Lalon, Rabindranath, Kazi Nazrul, Jibanananda; there is a similarity in our language, we are nourished by the waters of the Padma, Brahmaputra, Teesta; and so on. The Sundarbans is our common pride. We don’t have any strife over it. Then, why should there be any contention over the waters of common rivers?” she asked.

Describing again poverty as the main enemy of this region, the premier put emphasis on collaboration between the neighbours to root out this curse. “I always refer to poverty as the main enemy of this region. A large number of people of Bangladesh and India suffer from malnutrition. They are deprived of their basic needs,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said lack of nutrition is impeding the growth of a huge number of children and they don’t have proper medicare and schooling.

“We have to change this scenario. We have the ability. The only thing we need is to change our mentality. I think eradication of poverty should be the first and foremost priority of our political leaders,” she said.

The premier said in today’s globalised world, it is difficult to do something in isolation, rather, collaboration and cooperation can make many things easier. “That’s why I always put emphasis on regional cooperation and improved connectivity,” she said.

The prime minister said in recent years, especially after 2009, when the Awami League assumed office, cooperation between Bangladesh and India has been bolstered manifold.

“Rail, road, and waterway connectivity boosted. Trade, commerce and investment maximised. The people-to-people contact also got momentum. Such mutual cooperation is definitely benefitting our people. Relations, at a personal or national level, largely depend on give-and-take measures,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said maintenance of good relations with the neighbours; friendship to all, malice to none is the policy she pursues throughout her life.

“Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, defined the policy. We are also inspired by his words: “The very struggle of Bangladesh symbolised the universal struggle for peace and justice. It was, therefore, only natural that Bangladesh, from its very inception, should stand firmly by the side of the oppressed people of the world.” At international forums, she said, Bangladesh supports all international efforts towards building a just and peaceful world.

The prime minister said only desire in her political thought is to build a society for common people where none will suffer from the curse of poverty while their basic needs will be met. “In other words, they will get the opportunity to have the right to food, clothing, shelter, medicare, education, improved livelihood and a decent life,” she said, adding she received the teaching of such sacrifice from Bangabandhu.

Recalling the contribution of neighbouring countries to Bangladesh’s liberation war, Sheikh Hasina said the support and cooperation of neighbouring and friendly countries had accelerated the goal to earn the independence of Bangladesh. “Among those, India played the leading role,” she said.

She said India gave food and shelter to nearly 10 million refugees of Bangladesh and extended all-out cooperation in great liberation.

“They played an important role in creating global opinion in favour of Bangladesh … this helped us to earn the victory and the country was freed from enemy occupation,” she said. The premier also remembered the role of the government and the people of India in getting Bangabandhu released from the Pakistani prison.