India, being the largest country in the region, needs to play a pioneering role in building a stable and politically and economically vibrant South Asia, said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday.
"If we move forward hand in hand, the development of our people is inevitable," she said while chairing the concluding ceremony of a 10-day programme with the theme "Mujib Chironton" (Eternal Mujib) organised to mark the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence.
Her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi was present at the event as the guest of honour. President Abdul Hamid also attended the concluding ceremony in the city's National Parade Square as the chief guest.
Even though South Asia is the most densely populated area, it has a lot of resources, the premier said, adding, "Using these resources we will be able to make this region free from hunger and poverty."
She said, "At this auspicious moment of celebrating the birth centenary of Father of the Nation and the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence, let us pledge to forget all differences and work together for the welfare of our peoples.
"Our foreign policy formulated by the Father of the Nation is 'Friendship to All and Malice towards None'. We are determined to establish South Asia as a developed and prosperous region."
Stating that Bangabandhu believed in regional cooperation, the prime minister said Bangabandhu dreamed of political emancipation as well as economic freedom of the oppressed people. Therefore, he emphasised cooperation on the basis of mutual trust, confidence and equality.
'India has always been by the side of Bangladesh'
Recalling India's historic contribution to the War of Liberation, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, "In times of joy and sorrow – India has always been by the side of Bangladesh."
Hasina said, "Prime Minister Narendra Modi is giving us 109 ambulances this time. He gifted us the coronavirus vaccine earlier and is giving it again. I thank him for that."
"Our relations with India have reached new heights," she said, adding, "I would appreciate Prime Minister Modi's 'neighborhood first' policy. Every political party in India and the people of India regardless of party affiliations are always united on one issue – that is Bangladesh."
The premier further added that Bangladesh over the last several years has increased cooperation with India in various fields including trade and commerce, communication, power, energy and agriculture.
The prime minister said, "India is one of our development partners. The Maitri Bridge over the River Feni has recently been inaugurated to increase Bangladesh's connectivity with the northeastern states of India. These states can now use the Chattogram seaport and Chattogram airport. They can also use the Mongla port."
She said, "We are taking Bangladesh forward on the path of prosperity by overcoming various obstacles. In the last 12 years, it has evolved from a least developed country to a developing country. We want to achieve the SDGs and become a high middle-income country by 2031 and a developed and prosperous country by 2041."