Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi has advocated for improving connectivity through road, water, rail and air between Bangladesh and northeast India to bring the people of both countries closer.
Interacting with a 15-member delegation of members of Parliament from Bangladesh belonging to different political parties in that country, Gogoi said, "People to people contact and dialogue at the diplomatic level are keys to further cementing the age-old ties between India and Bangladesh and it is what the prime ministers of both the countries are working for," he said.
Gogoi told the delegation that the northeastern part of India once enjoyed hassle-free connectivity through waterways.
"The partition of the country made the N-E region landlocked by disrupting many routes of communication. But today with both the countries having the best of ties the age-old communication routes can be reopened for the mutual benefit of both sides," he added.
The delegation of MPs from Bangladesh was led by Rashed Khan Menon who said they had come to Assam and the northeastern states on an invitation from FICCI to meet, interact and exchange views with the government, civil society groups and entrepreneurs to discuss on issues of mutual interests.
"There is tremendous scope for trade and commerce between North East part of India and Bangladesh given the geographical proximity each shares with the other. Through enhanced trade and commerce we can pave the way for socio-economic transformation of both northeast India and Bangladesh. Both India and Bangladesh can become the most prosperous countries in the world if we develop a common strategy and work upon it", he said.
Menon said that Bangladesh would remain indebted to India for freeing the country from the yoke of slavery.
"India has helped us to attain freedom in the process of which many Indian soldiers laid down their lives. Our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has acknowledged this. We always want to maintain good relations with India," he said.
Welcoming Bangladesh's keen interests to invest in the northeast, Gogoi said that his government would extend all possible help and support.
Minister for Industries and Power, Pradyut Bordoloi, who was present in the discussion said that the state offers attractive incentives for those who want to invest in the state and the region as a whole.
Bordoloi apprised the delegation about the setting up of three border trade centres at Sutarkandi, Golokganj and Mankachar close to the Bangladesh border. He pointed out that the opening of the trade centres has not yielded the desired results.
"The trade centres opened by us have not led to increase in the volume of trade and commerce. There are some minor irritants that have to be addressed at the bilateral level. Our government has apprised the Centre about the issues that need to be sorted out to give the much-needed impetus to trade and commerce," he said, urging the MPs from the neighbouring country to take the lead in building up the necessary infrastructure on their side of the border to augment trade and commerce in a big way.
The issue of influx also figured in the informal talks. The Bangladeshi delegation told the chief minister that they were not aware of the influx issue in Assam. Gogoi told the delegation that the influx problem has all along been there.
In the same breath, Gogoi pointed that there was no large-scale influx and it (the influx) was on the decline. He told the delegation that his government is committed towards detecting and deporting those who came after 25 March, 1971 as per the Assam Accord.
The Bangaldeshi delegation requested Gogoi to send a delegation of all-party members of Legislative Assembly from Assam to Bangladesh to strengthen the bond of amity.