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India wants Bangladesh’s support to emerge as a global player

58India wants Bangladesh to be its partner in emerging as a major power in the world with its “development vision, not expansionism”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Dhaka with flourish of his public address.

He was speaking at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre’s dazzling ‘Hall of Fame’ on Sunday just before jetting out of Dhaka, completing a jam-packed two-day maiden visit.

At least 1,500 mixed group of audience, mostly Bangladeshis representing almost all professions including politicians, diplomats, teachers, and students, turned up to hear him speak.

He had already scored big on the first day, Saturday, of his whirlwind. Alongside his counterpart Sheikh Hasina, he witnessed a flurry of deals touching almost all sectors signed between the neighbours, whose destinies were described as being “interlinked”.

Key issues like security, connectivity, trade, power, and river water dominated his visit and he assured Dhaka of working together on those issues.

Sunday’s event gave him a crucial opportunity to court Bangladesh’s youths and civil society groups as he sought to bolster economic ties with Dhaka and build a regional connectivity.

The speech lasting more than an hour was greeted with a rapturous standing ovation when he finished with “Joy Bangla, Joy Hind”, bowing to the audience with folded hands.

He touched upon almost all issues in the India-Bangladesh relations with a special focus on youths, who comprise almost 65 percent of population of both countries.

He accused powerful nations of not paying much attention to poor counties and said, together, Bangladesh and India can change the world.

He lauded Bangladesh’s socio-economic progress, and said both he and Hasina worked for one goal: “development, development, development”.

Modi began his speech in broken Bengali and ended with Jibananda Das’ “Abar Ashibo Phire” to remind Bangladeshis that he will return for a hearty ‘adda’ (chat session) on a boat ride with young Bangladeshis on the Padma.

His appearance, wearing a bright blue sleeveless jacket over his white kurta, was preceded by the rendition of Lalon, Tagore and Nazrul songs by celebrated singers.

Modi reached all major powers in his first year in office including the neighbours along the Bay of Bengal.

In a recent interview, he said: “It is clear in my mind we are no more just a balancing power, but a global player.

“We speak on equal terms with all, whether it is the US or China,” he recently said

He has also branded himself with his names chanted in New York’s Madison Square Garden, Sydney and Canada in public speeches.

On those visits, he sought bilateral support from countries for India’s UNSC candidacy.

“India is the second most populous country. Every sixth person in the world is an Indian. So don’t you think it is a gross injustice that India is not a permanent member of UNSC?” he said on Sunday in Dhaka.

He sought to give the impression that as UNSC member, India will take upon itself to represent the interests of all poor nations.

“We are poor nations but together we can change the world,” he said, seeking Bangladesh’s support to becoming a permanent member of the Security Council.

“The UN system needs reforms, it is outdated”, he said.

He was also overwhelmed by the hospitality he received in Bangladesh and said “this is an honour not for Modi, this is for the hundred crore Indians”.

He did not forget the critics of India-Bangladesh relations and said after his departure, this visit would be under “post-mortem” not only in Asia, but also across the world.

“But the world must acknowledge that from now on we start working together.”

His visit came on the heels of the 41-year-old land boundary ratification.

He compared this with the fall of the Berlin Wall “but no one talks about us”, implying that if it had happened in a developed country, the world would be humming with discussions, creating the ground for winning the Nobel prize.

“But nobody asks us because we are poor.”

Among his so many quotable quotes of Saturday’s speech, one was, “The future I dream for India is the future I wish for Bangladesh.”