Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Sunday termed India a ‘trusted friend’ and said the ‘long standing’ water-sharing dispute between the two countries should be resolved to ease the problems the citizens of her country are facing.
The 74-year-old leader is scheduled to visit India between September 5 and 8, during which she will meet with newly-sworn in President Droupadi Murmu and Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankar, and hold bilateral consultations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
She last visited India before the coronavirus pandemic in October 2019.
Speaking to news agency ANI, Sheikh Hasina said: “We are downstream, water is coming from India. So, India should show more generosity. Both countries would be beneficiaries. Sometimes, our people suffer a lot because of this, especially the Teesta River. We found that PM [Narendra Modi] is very eager to solve this but the problem is in your country. We share only Ganges water but we have 54 other rivers. It’s a long-standing problem and should be resolved.”
She also thanked PM Modi for India’s Vaccine Maitri programme, and termed India’s role in the evacuation of Bangladesh nationals who were stuck in war-hit Ukraine a “friendly gesture.”
#WATCH | Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina thanks PM Modi for India’s Vaccine Maitri program, terms evacuation of Bangladesh nationals from war-torn Ukraine by India as a ”friendly gesture” pic.twitter.com/1I7ZxlYL3z
— ANI (@ANI) September 4, 2022
Sheikh Hasina also praised the decades-long relationship between the two countries. “Even in 1975, when I lost all my family members, the then-Indian PM gave us shelter in India,” said Sheikh Hasina.
When asked about Dhaka’s relationship with China as well as India, Hasina said that her main goal is the country’s development. “Our foreign policy is very clear — friendship to all, malice to none. If there’s a problem, it’s between China and India. I don’t want to put my nose there,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina also urged bilateral solutions to any issues between the two countries.
“When you are living side by side, some problems will come up or remain or you can solve them. We still have issues but I think we will continue our dialogue. For our development, we need cooperation from any country which is suitable for our country,” she told ANI.
On being asked about the possibility of her son Sajeeb Wazed joining politics, the Bangladesh PM said that she has left it up to him to decide. “He’s working for the country. Digital Bangladesh is his idea and he is assisting me with this. But, he has never thought of taking any position in the political party or any ministry,” she said.
In the free-wheeling interview, Sheikh Hasina also asserted that Bangladesh’s economy is strong and in a position to repay debts on time. She rejected the possibility of an economic crisis, the likes of which Sri Lanka saw earlier in the year, hitting Dhaka.
Referring to the incidents faced by Hindus in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, the prime minister said that hers is a secular country and the government has always taken immediate action against such incidents. “As long as we are in power, we will always give importance to this. I will always tell them they are our citizens. But sometimes, some incidents take place and we immediately take action,” she said.
Speaking of the ongoing Rohingya crisis, Sheikh Hasina: “For us, it’s a big burden… On humanitarian grounds, we give them [Rohingyas] shelter and everything, but how long will they stay here? Some engage in drug or women trafficking. As soon as they return, it’s good. We are discussing it with them. India can play a big role,” she said.