Voice of Time: How do you evaluate Bangladesh-India relations?
Harsh Vardhan Shringla: We can say with satisfaction that this relationship is strongest today. This relationship is a strength for both countries. Bangladesh-India relations are now a symbol of cooperation between the two neighboring countries anywhere in the world. If Latin American countries want to see a model of cooperation between two neighbors, they can look to us.
They can see how we are helping each other. How to fully realize the possibilities. This is a relationship that everyone should study closely. And this we have achieved in the last 10 years.
Voice of Time: So what factors have transformed the Bangladesh-India relationship into a ‘symbol’ in the last 10 years?
Harsh Vardhan Shringla: We have come a long way in the last 50 years. But the most progress has been made in the last 10 years. Now we say, the ‘golden chapter’ of our relationship is going on. Special efforts have been made under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to bring back the relationship that existed between our two countries from 1971 to 1975.
The difference between our relations today compared to the relations of 1975 is that we have multifaceted partnerships in every sector. Both countries and the people of both countries have benefited from it. The connection between the two countries is increasing. High speed diesel transmission line from India to Bangladesh. Electricity is going. Each other is providing transit, transshipment facilities. The biggest thing is that the attitudes of the two countries have changed a lot.
Voice of Time: The solution of the water distribution issues of the same rivers is not happening quickly.
Harsh Vardhan Shringla: An agreement has been reached regarding the Kushiara river water. This is a breakthrough. The joint statement said to work on more rivers. I think cooperation in water should not only look at distribution, but also from the point of view of information sharing, pollution and innovation. Here are some other things. We have to work together on the same 54 rivers.
Voice of Time: What are India’s expectations of the future governments of Bangladesh?
Harsh Vardhan Shringla: Any destabilization in the immediate neighborhood will affect India. Again, if there is unrest in India, it will affect you. So I think, we need to fight extremism, terrorism, forces that stand in the way of stability and progress in our two countries. I’m not talking about normal political forces, I’m talking about destructive evil forces.
For example, Sheikh Hasina decided to expel Indian rebel groups from Bangladesh soon after becoming Prime Minister. He has a no-compromise policy against terrorism. We managed to settle the land boundary agreement, maritime boundary disputes during his government. India has provided major development assistance to Bangladesh.
Peace, stability is very important. We must not allow such a situation to arise again, where we get involved in strife, extremism and division. It should not be supported at any stage.
Voice of Time: Conflict is going on in Myanmar on Bangladesh border. There were already problems in Rakhine state. How much risk is it causing for regional security and stability?
Harsh Vardhan Shringla: We are also concerned about the situation in Myanmar. As a democratic country, India has certain obligations. India is the only country with which Bangladesh and Myanmar share a border. We have good relations with both countries. We will do everything we can with our partners.
Voice of Time: One side in Bangladeshi politics expects India’s neutral role at various times – what do you say about this?
Harsh Vardhan Shringla: The core of India’s foreign policy is respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. This is what India has been practicing. I am saying from my personal position that India will not have any plans to get involved in the political issues of other countries. Even as a citizen I don’t think India wants or has done that.
Voice of Time: You are India’s Chief G20 Coordinator. What is the aim of India as the president of G20?
Harsh Vardhan Shringla: India is going to chair the G20 for the first time. G20 is an alliance of the world’s most powerful countries. Developed and emerging economies are its members. In my view, becoming the G20 President is a unique opportunity for India. This will give India an opportunity to present its practical agenda on the international stage.
Voice of Time: India is going to take over the presidency of G20 at a time when there is unrest in the world due to various crises including Ukraine-Russia. How ready is India to play a role as the president of G20 in this situation?
Harsh Vardhan Shringla: India, like many other countries, is pressing for a solution to the crisis. The conflict should end. There should be a peaceful solution based on diplomacy and dialogue.
Voice of Time: Thank you very much.
Harsh Vardhan Shringla: Thanks to the voice of time.