Kolkata, Aug 12 (PTI) With most Bangladeshis preferring West Bengal as their destination while visiting India, the state has the most to gain from a better relation between the two countries, Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Harsh Vardhan Shringla has said.
“The minimum amount required for carrying by a person from Bangladesh before we give Indian visas is 150 US dollars.
Half a billion of people from that country come to India for recreation, for tourism, shopping, medical facilities and all they prefer is West Bengal. So the tangible gains to the economy of West Bengal are incredible,” he said.
However, the difficulty in accessing Indian visas by Bangladeshis was impacting the relation between the two countries. The problem has been addressed by augmenting the facilities and helping the system to be more efficient.
In 2015 around 7.5lakh visas had been issued, while last year it was 9.33 lakh. The figure in the first half of this year was close to seven lakh. The Indian high commission in Dhaka handles the largest volume of visas in the Indian system followed by Oman, he said at the ICC programme ‘India-Bangladesh Business Relations: The Way Forward’ here late last night.
Stating that the relationship potential between India and Bangladesh has not been appropriately viewed, Shringla said, “There is a lot more that the state(Bengal) can gain out of the relationship and I think in business you should look at it more carefully. We must look at what we can give, and if we give what we can get. I think this symbiotic relationship that is something West Bengal really needs to look into.” Referring to the requirement of power in Bangladesh, Shringla said that scope to meet part of that demand from the surplus that Bengal has is enormous.
You can sell a couple of thousand MW without a problem from West Bengal to Bangladesh. In case of energy connectivity we are planning to connect our energy pipeline integrated gas link from Haldia. We will also connect from Dattafulia to Khulna (in Bangladesh) which will go up to north Bengal so that Coochebehar gets gas and they do not have to build a gas pipeline.”
It has been planned that LPG would be provided to the north east through Chittagong, where a terminal would be set up and a pipeline laid to Tripura, he said.
About connectivity, the diplomat stressed on the inland waterways and coastal shippings.
“We have already started transshipments in Indian waterways so in a certain sense we have already started sending goods through Bangladesh. We have also started using smaller vessels along the coast to transport goods from our different ports right into the interior parts of Bangladesh using the riverine system,” he said.
Later talking to journalists on the sidelines of the session, Shringla stressed on the need for consultation to reach a consensus before taking a decision on the Teesta water issue.
“Of course Teesta is an outstanding issue but I think we have made clear that it requires more consultations within our own country. Land boundary (in Coochbehar) took five years to resolve because it required extensive consultation. But when we ultimately concluded the land boundary we did it with consensus. I think we need to have to look into the Teesta issue in the same manner,” the diplomat said.
Settling maritime boundaries had restored lot of confidence and enabled both countries to set out their economic engagements to exploit the ‘blue economy’, he said.
Talking about terrorists using Bangladesh soil, the diplomat said, “Terrorism is an issue which is deflects both the countries. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wrote to PM Narendra Modi immediately after the attack on Amarnath Yatra pilgrims stating that the two countries stand together in solidarity in the fight against terrorism. Sk Hasina had also mentioned that terrorism has to be tackled jointly by countries and not alone.
We are on the same wavelength on issues that involve radicalism, fundamentalism, terrorism. We cooperate closely in tackling these threats to our countries. Given the long porous land border that the two countries share it could be detrimental if they do not work together,” he added.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.