India-Bangladesh-Myanmar Trilateral Dialogue, 19-20 Mar 2019
Opening Remarks by Dr Arvind Gupta, Director VIF

Ambassador Shamsher Chowdhury, Dr. Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir and Professor Munir Khasru,
On behalf of the VIF, my colleagues and my own behalf, I would like to welcome the Bangladesh delegation to this dialogue between experts on India-Bangladesh relations. Our two countries are strategic partners. This partnership had deepened in the last decade, and have taken on board many new dimensions, particularly connectivity and security cooperation. In addition, India and Bangladesh have also become important partners in promoting regional and subregional cooperation.

The global environment and the regional environment are changing rapidly. The world order is changing as a new balance of power begins to take shape. Apart from the traditional security concerns, non-traditional security issues like terrorism, radicalization and the impact of climate change impact our countries profoundly.

The rapid pace of technological change in different domains – cyber, space, maritime, health, manufacturing, financial sectors etc, is impacting the whole world. Today, a handful of technological giants control the entire almost the ICT space in the world. There is a danger that these companies will come to acquire a high degree of control in information space thereby impacting state sovereignty and social behavior. The concerns over the power of social media and artificial intelligence replacing jobs in the manufacturing sector are real. Both India and Bangladesh should discuss these concerns thoroughly.

China’s growing influence and presence in South Asia cannot be denied. But what impact will it have on the countries of the region? Chinese investment in the region has raised concerns over their impact on sovereignty as well as on economy. India has refrained from endorsing the Belt and Road Initiative because of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor which directly impinges on India’s sovereignty. The distress that the Chinese debt has caused in Sri Lanka due to unsustainable investments in the Hambantota port is a case in point. The issue has been resolved only because the Sri Lankan government agreed to lease vast amount of land to China on 99- year lease. Such practices are reminiscent of a bygone age. Chines capital may attractive but it comes at a cost.

The security environment in the region is fragile. The terror attack in Pulwama has focused on the wages of state-sponsored terrorism. The entire world stood with India after the attacks. Terrorist groups have global connections. It is unfortunate that China’s technical hold for the fourth time at the UNSC 1272 sanctions committee once again prevented the Jaish–e Mohammad chief Masood Azhar from being listed as a global terrorist. India and Bangladesh are affected deeply by terrorism. Both sides need to deepen their cooperation in this area.

The chemistry between our top leaders has become quite close. On 11th Mar 2019, Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Seikh Hasina jointly unveiled e-plaques for developments project in Bangladesh for supply of buses and trucks, inauguration of 36 community clinics, 11 Water treatment plants and extension of National Knowledge Network to Bangladesh. This was their sixth video conference. Technology has provided a novel way for summit-level diplomacy.

A paradigm change has taken place in India-Bangladesh relations. Moving beyond the formal state to state and government-to-government contact, the bilateral cooperation is now directed at making a visible difference to common people. The knowledge network will connect scholars and research institute in Bangladesh to India and the World. Community clinics will benefit about two lakh people in Bangladesh as was noted by PM Modi, India-Bangladesh relations are “playing a key role in improving the quality of life of the people”.

Our discussions today are focused on making and accurate and objective assessment of our bilateral relations, identifying areas of cooperation for the future and also looking at the constraints. We hope that the outcome of these discussions would be shared with policymakers to help them shape the future trajectory of India-Bangladesh relations.

Thank you for visiting us at short notice. We greatly appreciate your taking time from your busy schedule for being here today with us.

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