India, Bangladesh not just ‘paas-paas but saath-saath’: Modi

Dhaka, (IANS) India and Bangladesh are not just “paas-paas” but also “saath saath”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said here on Sunday, stressing that the Land Boundary Agreement ratified by the two nations was an agreement to join hearts.

Addressing intellectuals in Dhaka University at the end of his two-day visit, Modi said if in one sentence he is to describe ties: “People think that we are ‘paas-paas’ but now the world will have to accept that we are not just ‘paas paas’ but ‘saath-saath’,” he said to loud applause.

On the Land Boundary Agreement, which was ratified by both countries on Saturday, Modi said it was not just a land dispute that has been resolved, but it was “an agreement to join hearts”.

He said that while in the world there are fights over capturing territory, India is the land of the Buddha where there can be no “yuddha” (war). He said India and Bangladesh are two countries that make land “the bridge of our close ties”.

He also referred to a newspaper article which referred to the LBA as the breaking down of the Berlin wall.

Touching on several topics, including the achievements of Bangladesh in the field of women empowerment, gender equality, education, India’s bid for a UNSC permanent seat and Bangladesh’s space aspiration and their youthful population, he said that though his two-day visit has just ended, but “I feel that actually the yatra (in ties) has just begun”.

“I have an emotional attachment with Bangladesh,” he said.

Modi began his speech in Bengali, saying: “Kemon acho, aamra tomakey sathey niye cholbo, amar bangla kemon boloto” (How are you , we want to take you along.. how is my Bangla).

He said the warm welcome accorded to him, was in effect, a welcome to 125 crore Indians.

He said he was especially happy that a “Mukti Jodha” President Abdul Hamid in the presence of the Bangabandhu’s daughter (Sheikh Hasina), had presented the Bangladesh Liberation War honour to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, which he had the honour to receive.

He said as a young man, his first exposure to politics was in the form of a ‘Satyagrah’ in support of the liberation struggle in Bangladesh.

Praising Bangladesh’s development, he said Indian states could learn form Bangladesh on its achievements in the field of infant mortality, nutrition, girl child, and education.

“The sun rises first in Bangladesh and then in India; Bangladesh’s progress will reflect on India,” he said.

He referred to the youthful population of both countries, saying India and Bangladesh are both fortunate to have 65 percent population of less than 35 years of age. “I can say that Bangladesh’s vikas yatra can never stop.”

Modi noted many states in India could learn from Bangladesh on several social indicators, such as infant mortality rate. He said when Bangladesh progresses, India feels proud, because Indian soldiers too have shed blood for the birth of this country.

Congratulating Sheikh Hasina for for the country’s 6 percent growth and her single-minded focus on economic development, he said a firm foundation is being laid for Bangladesh’s economic progress.

Noting that the era of expansionism in geopolitics has ended, Modi said the world now needs “vikaswaad” (development), not “vistaarwaad” (expansionism).

Referring to the Teesta agreement, Modi acknowledged that some tasks were still to be accomplished. He said he believed and panchhi (birds), pawan (wind), and paani (water) needed no visa – and therefore – the Teesta issue had to be solved with a human approach but he has to take his states along in whatever decision is taken.

“I will try to find a resolution, on that I give my assurance. Koshish jaari rehna chahiye (we must continue to try).

Asserting India has called for reform of the United Nations and it had still had not got a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, he referred to India’s role in peacekeeping operations across the world.

He said Indian soldiers had fought alongside Mukti Jodhas as well, for Bangladesh. Referring to the Pakistani prisoners of war after the 1971 war, he said India released 90,000 soldiers, because it was only interested in the welfare and progress of Bangladesh.

He said this incident, in itself should have been enough to convince the world that India should get a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

Modi said his vision and Sheikh Hasina’s vision matched perfectly – that of development.

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