High Commissioner’s remarks at the inaugural session of the 8th biennial conference of the South and Southeast Asian Association for the Study of Culture and Religion (SSEASR) চলমান ঘটনাবলী

সাউথ অ্যান্ড সাউথইস্ট এশিয়ান অ্যাসোসিয়েশন ফর দ্য স্টাডি অফ কালচার অ্যান্ড রিলিজিয়নের ৮ম দ্বিবার্ষিক সম্মেলনের উদ্বোধনী অধিবেশনে হাই কমিশনারের বক্তব্য

High Commission of India

Dhaka

 High Commissioner’s remarks at the inaugural session of the 8th biennial conference of the South and Southeast Asian Association for the Study of Culture and Religion (SSEASR)

(13 June, 2019)

H.E. Dr. Dipu Moni, Hon’ble Minister of Education, 

Dr. Amarjiva Lochan, President, South and Southeast Asian Association for the Study of Culture and Religion,

Dr. B. R. Mani, Director General, National Museum and Vice Chancellor, National Museum Institute, Ministry of Culture, Government of India, 

Prof. H. M. Jahirul Haque,Vice Chancellor, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh,

Prof. Rosalind Hackett, Vice President, The International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciencesunder UNESCO,

Prof. Satoko Fujiwara, Secretary General of International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR),

Dr. Shahnaj Husne Jahan, Chair, 8th SSEASR conference and Director, Centre for Archaeological Studies, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh,

 Eminent scholars from across the world and students,

Friends from the media,

Shubho shokaal!

Thank you for inviting me to be amongst such distinguished gathering of scholars and eminent persons. It is always an enriching experience to be amongst scholars and as a former lecturer in Delhi University, may I add, it is wonderful to be in an academic atmosphere.

  1. I am glad to learn that the South and Southeast Asian Association for the Study of Culture and Religion(SSEASR), a prime academic body covering the nations of South Asia and Southeast Asia is holding its 8thbiennial International Conference in Dhaka in collaboration with the University of Liberal Arts, Bangladesh(ULAB). The theme of the Conference, Rivers and Religion: Connecting Cultures of South and Southeast Asia” encompasses our culture and religion connect. The organizers could not have chosen a better host than Bangladesh - ‘hajar nadir desh’. The flow of Ganga river in India turning into Padma in Bangladesh is not only a simple story of a river passing through a valley, but it carries civilizational connections. The history, culture and religion of the entire South Asia and Southeast Asia has thrived because of the role such rivers have played in this region. The common inherent traits shared by our various civilizations in the past three millennia make our region a role model of co-existence where the external elements get adjusted, accepted, adapted and honoured. History is witness to the extremely important role that rivers play in nurturing civilizations. Rivers bring fresh water and food which is absolutely necessary for human survival.  It is not an accident that the four great civilizations of the world i.e., The Tigris & Euphrates, Nile Valley, Indus Valley and Yellow River civilizations have from millennia developed around rivers.
  1. Historically, Bangladesh and the neighbouring Indian states were economically integrated. This integrated economy was served by our common rivers, particularly Brahmaputra and Barak-Surma, which were used extensively for facilitating trade and commerce, and people-to-people contact.Recognizing the historically important role that our rivers have played in connecting our people and businesses, promoting connectivity through our inland waterways and coastal shipping has become an important part of our objective to create multi-modal transport links between India and Bangladesh. To this end, we have taken concerted efforts in the last few years to revive trade and tourism through our rivers to the mutual benefit of our people. We are committed to promoting connectivity and economic development, through cross-border trade, transport, telecommunications, cyber and energy links. We are also working together on the management and conservational aspects of our common riverine heritage – whether it is monitoring river pollution and assessing impact of climate change in the Sunderbans ecosystem or trans-boundary migration and conservation of animals, particularly of elephants.
  1. Over the last few years, both Governments have taken a number of measures to bring about the revival of waterways connectivity and shipping between the two countries. I would like to share with you a glimpse of some of the initiatives:

Ø  Revitalization of the Protocol on Inland Water Trade & Transit (PIWWT) which has a longer validity now with provision for auto renewal which is enabling sustained focus and investment in improving our inland waterways infrastructure; we are now able to focus on identifying new ports of call and waterways instead of on renewal of the protocol every 12 months;

 

Ø  Under the revised Protocol, the transshipment of goods to Northeastern states through Ashuganj river port (and from there to Akhaura-Agartala by road) has also commenced since June 2016 (ex 200 tonnes in last 3 years);

Ø  We are also partnering with Bangladesh to strengthen the infrastructure required to support waterways connectivity by investing in establishing an Inland Container Port (ICP) at Ashuganj, and in widening the existing road between Akhaura Land Port and Ashuganj to 4 lanes; these two projects are being implemented under the second Line of Credit of 2 billion dollars to Bangladesh; 

Ø  Joint funding of dredging of Sirajganj-Daikhowa stretch of the Jamuna river and Ashuganj-Zakiganj stretch of the Kushiyara river; India is paying 80% of the cost for this project and remaining 20% is being paid by Bangladesh; it will help improve navigability of the Protocol routes in Bangladesh and also help facilitate seamless connectivity between National Waterway-1 (River Ganga) and National Waterway-2 (River Brahmaputra) in India and the waterways in Bangladesh; 

Ø  Commencement of Coastal Shipping between India and Bangladesh, which allows ships to commute directly between the two countries and has shortened the traveling time substantially;

Ø  Negotiations to operationalize the Agreement on the use of Chittagong and Mongla ports for movement of goods to and from India are also underway;

Ø  Under the third Line of Credit of USD 5 billion, India and Bangladesh are also partnering to develop infrastructure of three major Ports in Bangladesh;

Ø  In April-May 2019, inaugural runs for cruise services between Dhaka-Kolkata and Dhaka-Guwahati routes were also conducted successfully. Cruise service will further help facilitate tourism exchanges and people-to-people ties between our two countries.

  1. Once again, I would like to thank you for having me here. I wish the conference participants, around 170 scholars from 27 countries, all the very best in their deliberations. I hope many of you will also contribute about your experiences in our in-house magazineBharat Bichitra which we will be happy to publish.

Thank you. 

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