Dhaka: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says there need not be any fears in Bangladesh over the issue of offering transit facilities to India for getting easy access to the country’s landlocked northeast.
Ahead of his two-day visit to Bangladesh starting tomorrow, Singh however said India would move only at a pace with which Bangladesh is “comfortable” in regard to the transit through its territories to the north-eastern region.
The Prime Minister also said the two neighbouring countries must confront the challenge of terrorism “head on”, noting that their counter-terror cooperation was crucial.
Asked how he would dispel fears in some quarters in Bangladesh over offering transit facilities to India, he said this was entirely a sovereign decision for Bangladesh to take and “we respect whatever decision Bangladesh takes”.
“However, I see no reason for Bangladesh to be fearful of improving transport and infrastructure connectivity with India. There is a lot that can be done for the benefit of both countries in this regard, including through inland waterways,” he said in an interview to Bangladesh’s national news agency BSS ahead of his visit.
India has sought transit facilities to its north-eastern states through road and railway routes and ports in Bangladesh.
Singh said India has already opened up rail and road routes for transit to link Nepal and Bhutan with Bangladesh.
With five Indian states sharing borders with Bangladesh, Singh also said he sees a potential in that country a potential to become a “springboard” for development of India’s farflung northeast.
“Bangladesh can become the springboard for the development of India’s North-East region as economic integration has become the trend in all parts of the world,” he said.
Singh, who had recently ruffled feathers in the neighbouring country over his remarks about anti-India feelings among a quarter of Bangladeshis, said he also intends to carry a message that there was “great affection” and “respect” in India for the people of Bangladesh.