New Delhi: India is looking forward to the next BIMSTEC (The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) Summit, said Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Monday.

Shringla made these remarks at the Interaction with Bangladesh Delegation at the 10th India-Bangladesh Friendship Dialogue organized by the India Foundation.

Shringla said that India remains committed to building the momentum of regional cooperation under the BIMSTEC Framework. It can be an important vehicle for enhancing economic cooperation, development and connectivity in the region. We are looking forward to the next BIMSTEC Summit, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.

The summit will be hosted by Sri Lanka next month. BIMSTEC constitutes a unique link between South and South-East Asia with five Members from South Asia (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka) and two from South-East Asia (Myanmar and Thailand).

"Bangladesh is commemorating 'Ekushey' or Language Day. 70 years ago on this day, the youth of the then East Pakistan made supreme sacrifices for the recognition and respect for their mother language. Now the whole world celebrates this day as International Mother Language Day. I pay my tributes to the language heroes who laid down their lives for a very noble cause," Shringla said.

Shringla highlighted the relationship between India and Bangladesh and said "we have been able to achieve some remarkable feats together in recent years."

He said that 2021 was a milestone in their bilateral ties as both the President of India and Prime Minister paid a visit to Bangladesh to celebrate the 'Triveni' of the historic anniversaries of Bangladesh's independence, Victory Day and the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar also paid a visit to Dhaka last year. "These high-level engagements are reflective of the priority that both countries attach to this relationship. More importantly, they reflect the trust and confidence that we have in each other," he said.

Talking about Bangladesh's growth, Shringla said, "as Bangladesh commemorates 50 years of its independence, I am happy to note that its growth has proven its detractors wrong. Bangladesh has emerged as a role model for strong socio-economic growth. The growth of Bangladesh is not just in the interest of the people of Bangladesh, but equally, in the interest of the region and beyond. It is this spirit of interdependence and fraternal ties that drive our development cooperation with Bangladesh, which is the largest that we have with any country."

Foreign Secretary stressed on working closely to strengthen border infrastructure to ensure smooth transit of goods and people while ensuring that illegal activities are kept under check. An example of this approach is our objective of establishing additional border haats.

Two-way trade in the recent past has witnessed a quantum jump with exports from Bangladesh, for the first time, expected to cross USD two billion this year. Early conclusion of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement is vital to enhancing this momentum in trade, Shringla said.

Another area that needs our concerted focus is connectivity. We have made some progress here but there is a need to make more effective and sustained efforts, Shringla added.

Bangladesh has historically been an important trade and transportation hub for our subcontinent. India and Bangladesh have signed an 'Agreement on the Use Chattogram and Mongla Ports for Transshipment of Goods to and from North East of India', read the MEA statment.

"Fully operationalizing this agreement will bring economic benefits to a range of stakeholders from both countries. While North East India will benefit from steady supply of goods, the transport and logistics sector in Bangladesh will gain considerably, bringing prosperity on both sides of the border," the statement added.

India and Bangladesh have made remarkable progress in enhancing connectivity through the use of their inland waterways. In a significant development, on February 5, a cargo vessel carrying food grains sailed from Patna (Bihar) and will travel via the waterways of India and Bangladesh to reach Pandu (Assam) in early March, Shringla said.

Talking about PM Modi's 'Gati Shakti' initiative, Shringla said the initiative is upgrading connectivity in India with a multi-modal perspective. Movement of products from locations of production to places of value addition and consumption needs multiple modes of transportation.

"Our bilateral arrangements should reflect this paradigm to maintain the competitive advantage that our geographical proximity offers us. We can learn a lot from the regions and countries around the world that have used this model to reduce logistical costs and enhance competitiveness," Shringla said.

Shringla further said that India and Bangladesh have cooperated closely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shringla said that India and Bangladesh share 54 rivers which are part of our shared resources and responsibilities.

"The historic accord on Ganga water sharing has stood the test of time. We are now working on finalizing agreements for other rivers and exchanging best practices in the areas of river embankments, addressing salinity of rivers, etc."

"India has used the power of technology as an enabler for people in a range of areas such as banking and financing and commerce and education. Our joint initiative to establish of IT parks in 12 districts of Bangladesh is a positive step in that direction. We look forward to having greater bilateral cooperation in this area," Shringla said.

Shringla further said that in the last 10 years, our cooperation in the power and energy sectors has been mutually beneficial. "We are working towards arrangements for ensuring sub-regional cooperation in the power sector. Some of our important projects, including the Maitri Power Project in Khulna and the India Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline project, are expected to get commissioned this year."

Shringla highlighted that India has started rolling out the 1,000 Subarna Jayanti Scholarships announced by Prime Minister Modi during his visit to Bangladesh last year. This will offer several opportunities to students from Bangladesh for studying in prestigious institutions in India. At the same time, we have a number of Indian nationals studying in Bangladesh.

Shringla further stressed on the "importance of nurturing and upholding the spirit of the 1971 liberation war, especially at a time when radical and anti-liberation forces try to destabilize our region for their own interests. In the spirit of celebrating our ties, forged in blood, the two countries jointly commemorated Maitri Diwas in 18 countries," he added.