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10 September, 2016 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 9 September, 2016 11:13:43 PM

No objection from Assam to supply power to Bangladesh

Chief Minister Sonowal tells Independent
HUMAYUN KABIR BHUIYAN, back from Guwahati, Assam
No objection from Assam to supply power to Bangladesh
Sarbananda Sonowal

Assam will say yes to any agreement between Dhaka and New Delhi to supply power to Bangladesh from the north-eastern state, Assamese Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has said. “These kinds of issues can always be bilaterally settled because these are the subjects that are globally important. And, it does not have any boundary because power is essential for our growth,” he said in an exclusive interview with The Independent at an Assam state government office in Guwahati on August 16.
“Once you have agreed upon, once you have business deal or you had a deal on trade and commerce and communication, this kind of sector will definitely open up many other opportunities. One after another. It’s a question of first step…How far both (involved parties) were equally responsible and responsive and how we are committed to each other,” he said.
“That would be visible when the first commitment will be effectively executed on the ground. When the result will be visible to the people in both the countries then definitely the next step will appear before you to take as a matter of challenge,” he said.
“So power…When you have an agreement on the trade and commerce, business aspect of those things will definitely come and it’s a matter of concern for both of us,” he added to a question regarding Bangladesh’s purchase of power from Assam.
When put to him that Assam has no objection to supply power to Bangladesh, the chief minister said, “It’s not a question of Assam. I cannot say like this because it’s a question of India.”
When reminded that Dhaka and Delhi will strike the deal but Assam’s consent will be needed, he said, “Look, India is a federal nation. When the centre has to do something they always take the cognisance of the people of the states. It is not a kind of unilateral thing. Whatever is done, is done unanimously.”
“Of course,” he replied when asked if his state agrees when the centre (Delhi) agrees on power export.  During the interview, Chief
Minister Sonowal from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who assumed the office ending 15 years of Congress rule, also talked about cooperation in the areas of trade, commerce and connectivity, sealing of the border, issue of illegal foreigners in Assam, culture, trust and confidence.
He also said that he is not satisfied with the level of Assamese investment in Bangladesh and Bangladeshi investment in Assam, the largest of the Indian north-eastern state, and added that there are many more areas to be explored.
Placing emphasis on trade, commerce and communication, Sonowal said that sea route in the Bay of Bengal can be used in a better manner and that he will try to explore more opportunities for both Bangladesh and Assam.
On the issue of alleged ‘illegal Bangladeshi migrants’ in Assam, he said without mentioning the word Bangladeshi that no individual should be living in Assam without valid documents as per the constitution of India.
He also said that the trust and confidence between the governments of Bangladesh and India have started to grow.
When asked about his vision regarding Assam’s relationship with Bangladesh, the chief minister said, “Look, Bangladesh being our next door neighbour, we always want to develop our relationship with them.”
“That is the policy of the government of India also. We people in the SAARC nations should always move together so that this particular region can be developed in all aspects,” he said.
Refereeing to the recent South Asian Games held in Guwahati and Shillong, Sonowal said a sense of togetherness was felt during the games and everybody had been determined to go together for a future growth.
“That was a very significant initiative on the part of eight nations together and in the global society, this has been a remarkable assembly. So, sports could draw the attention of the globe and also draw the line that shows that the people of the SAARC regions are one,” he added.
When asked how he wanted to engage with Bangladesh for the betterment of both the peoples of Bangladesh and Assam, the chief minister said, “Trade and commerce…We could go together. And, even in the communication sector.”
“In the recent past we had the bilateral agreement signed between the government of India and the government of Bangladesh in this particular sector. This will definitely help both the nations grow together,” he said without mentioning the agreement.
“Whatever opportunities, possibilities and potentials we have both in our respective nations, we are to develop it mutually so that both of our nations can benefit from our mutual move. This will definitely help us develop our understanding and capacity building,” said Sonowal.
“I think the sea route will be very much important for our betterment. We can use the sea route that is Bay of Bengal in a better manner so that whatever we have can be exported to global destinations. Both ways it can definitely help,” he said.
Asked if Assam wants to use Chittagong and Mongla ports, the BJP leader said, “Not only Assam…This has been the policy of India already. In this line, the government of India is tying up and the government of India and the government of Bangladesh are also equally coming forward. This is as you know is a two-way traffic.”
“Both the nations have agreed to work together in the sector. Some pipelines are also going to be developed through Bangladesh. These are the sectors, which will ultimately help both the nations not only financially, but emotionally, which is more important. Once this sense grows positively definitely it will help the young generation in the future,” he said.
Asked if he has more opportunities to engage with Bangladesh in terms of connectivity, including use of Chittagong and Mongla ports because there are BJP governments both in Assam and in Delhi, the chief minister said, “Oh, of course. The visit of our prime minister to Bangladesh was a grand success and was able to win over the heart of the people of Bangladesh. And, Bangladesh has also responded to the call of our premier.”
So, he said, “This helps us develop our kind of coordinated efforts. This also helps us to understand each other. First of all, once you develop your understanding then you can be co-partners in any kind of activities of life. Because, once you develop this then it is a question of trust and confidence. Definitely, that grows. Definitely, that is happening under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This particular trust and confidence have started to grow.”
Sonowal said that out of this friendly relationship not only Assam but also the whole north-eastern India can be benefited.
Now, he said, “We are concerned about the positive vibration generated in the mindset of the young generation. So, that is the first task we had within ourselves. We are committed to do so.”
When asked how, the chief minister referred to the passage of the Land Boundary Agreement, which, he thinks, was utmost necessary.
“When prime ministers Modi and Hasina had this agreement done definitely this created a new vista of thinking. In addition, this has created an environment through which permanent sealing of border would be possible. Earlier confusion was there, uncertainty was there. Now all the uncertainties and confusions are removed out of signing this land boundary agreement. This will definitely help both the nations,” he said.
To a question regarding rail link, road link and water link between Bangladesh and Assam, the former union minister said, “Of course, this is going to be there. Because whatever bilateral agreements were signed by both the nations, definitely there are chapters covering communication, trade and commerce and mutual investments. So these are all there in the kind of MoU. All the chapters are included.”
“I will definitely explore new opportunities for both of us,” he said. Asked if her was satisfied with the Assamese investment in Bangladesh and Bangladeshi investment in Assam, the largest State in the north-eastern region with about 32 million people, Sonowal said, “No. there are many more chapters to be opened. This is just the beginning.”
Taking a swipe at the previous government, he said, “The earlier government did not have such kind of transparent policy with their business relationship, bilateral or political or any other cultural. So, this was not transparent earlier. But the BJP government, particularly under the leadership of Narendra Modi, has made everything transparent.”


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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