Bangladesh thanks India for ‘standing by it’, backs country’s decision to fence border with Myanmar

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New Delhi: Bangladesh’s new foreign minister Hasan Mahmud Thursday thanked India for “standing” by it despite “many ploys” to undermine the recently-held national elections, and backed New Delhi’s decision to fence the country’s border with Myanmar.

Mahmud, who is on a three-day visit to India, from 7 to 9 February, also sought India’s help to repatriate Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh back to Myanmar during his meetings with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.

There are currently over 9.6 lakh Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh in and around the Kutupalong and Nayapara refugee camps, according to figures by the United Nations.

Mahmud said that the refugees have created “fanatic” and “security” issues in his country and that Myanmar was continuously “indulging in delaying tactics” on the matter.

His visit comes a month after Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League swept the national elections.

Apart from Rohingyas, Mahmud is also learnt to have discussed border security and commodity issues with top Indian officials.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Vivekananda International Foundation Thursday, Mahmud said India and Bangladesh have expanded bilateral cooperation in areas of security, energy, connectivity, trade, investment and culture, including opening a $500 million line of credit for security cooperation.

“Currently, we have given utmost priority to three areas — security, promoting connectivity and all-round economic cooperation,” he said. He also stressed that the Sheikh Hasina government had undertaken a zero-tolerance policy on terrorism.

At one point of time, multiple groups inimical to India, had set up bases in Bangladesh which was of concern to India. Sources in the security establishment said that while Bangladesh continued to be a concern when it comes to smuggling, there has been increased cooperation and understanding between the two countries over the issue of security and terrorism.

The Bangladesh foreign minister Thursday also welcomed India’s decision to fence its border with Myanmar just a week after New Delhi issued a travel advisory to people travelling to or living in the junta-ruled country in response to escalating violence in the Rakhine state.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah had Wednesday announced that the Centre would fence the entire 1,643-kilometre border, ending the Free Movement Regime (FMR) with its eastern neighbour.

“Fencing the Indo-Myanmar border is good because there’s always an insurgency issue from Myanmar,” the foreign minister said.

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