Category Archives: Neighbour

BANGLADESH PM ON HER MAIDEN OFFICIAL VISIT TO SINGAPORE

Bangladesh Prime Minister Ms. Sheikh Hasina

To strengthen Bangladesh’s relationship with Singapore, Bangladesh Prime Minister Ms. Sheikh Hasina made her maiden official visit to the country. Her meeting with the Prime Minister of Singapore Mr. Lee Hsien Loong got translated into the signing of two memoranda of understandings (MOUs), giving a boost to their business and bilateral relationship.

On signing of these MOUs, Mr. Lee Hsien said, “Singapore is a maritime nation situated between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, we should do more together. Singapore-based companies are keen on the growing Bangladesh market. The MOU on public- private partnership will facilitate more investments by Singapore companies in Bangladesh, particularly in the power, connectivity and infrastructure sectors.”

Thus, the MOU based on public- private partnership was signed to help and support the Singaporean firms in entering and establishing their presence in the Bangladeshi markets, which is ever growing and expanding. IE Singapore and the Public Private Partnership Authority of Bangladesh were the signatories to this MOU.

PRIME MINISTER OF SINGAPORE MR. LEE HSIEN LOON

The Civil Aviation Authorities of both the countries gave an agreeable shape to the second MOU for the purpose of advancing cargo and passenger services between Singapore and Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Ms. Sheikh Hasina stressed on the historic diplomatic relations between the two countries which have remained intact since 1972. She talked about the constant cordiality between the two ever since, and the prosperous futuristic collaborations.

With Singapore firm Sembcorp making investments worth US $ 1.1 billion in power plants, further investment engagements in Chittagong Port are being explored by PSA. While praising  the conducive working environment for Bangladeshi workers in Singapore, she hopes the trend continues and Singapore continues to remain a favourite destination for the workers.

She expressed her happiness on acknowledging the brewing interest and intent being showcased by the Singaporean companies in Bangladesh. She added, “Bangladesh and Singapore belong to different levels of development. But we can complement each other in our economic pursuit. In Singapore, you have capital, advanced technology and know-how while in Bangladesh, we have a large workforce. Moreover, a large section of our population is young and educated. These comparative advantages may be harnessed to our mutual benefit.”

MYANMAR’S HEALTHCARE SEGMENTTO RECEIVE AID FROMINDIA’S EXIMBANK

MYANMAR’S HEALTHCARE SEGMENTTO RECEIVE AID FROMINDIA’S EXIMBANK.

India’s Exim Bank under its Market Outreach Programme has evinced interest to invest in the healthcare sector of Myanmar. Post its liberalisation, interest from the global sphere in Myanmar’s investment landscape has revitalised, making the country more engaged and interested in the buzzing economic prospects offered by the word outside.

To fiscally benefit and support Myanmar’s health segment, a delegation from India’s Exim bank reached Myanmar early February as part of the bank’s Market Outreach Programme. This programme was undertaken to help the people of Myanmar receive better medical facilities in their own country. India has been well equipped in treating health problems owing to its advanced medical expertise and knowledge. This arrangement aims to provide affordable and efficient medical attention to the ailing people of Myanmar and prevent the urgency to travel to countries abroad for an expensive medical treatment leading to outflow of foreign capital from the reserves of the country.

Along with it, the opportunity to finance Indian investment in Myanmar was reckoned tantamount to Government of India’s Act East Policy. The delegation, on studying various sectors in the region perceived healthcare domain as the most significant segment in need of private sector investments. The Market Outreach Programme was carried out by the Exim Bank at Hotel Sule Shangrila, in association with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

The delegation to Myanmar was led by the Deputy Managing Director of Exim Bank of India Mr. Debashish Mallick. Members from Indian private sector hospitals, medical equipment and devices manufacturers, pathology labs, and hospital management companies were part of the delegation.

Maritime Sector of Bangladesh to Elevate Economic Growth

Mr. Abdul Hamid
Bangladesh President- Mr. Abdul Ham

Honoured as the Chief Guest at the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium Multilateral Maritime Search and Rescue Exercise Forum (IMMSAREX)-2017, Bangladesh President Mr. Abdul Hamid, upheld the need to build robust bridges along the Indian Ocean shoreline for security and safety measures.

Addressing the inauguration at Cox Bazar’s hotel Royal Tulip, he highlighted Bangladesh’s undeterred commitment in maintaining peaceful bilateral relations with the neighbouring countries. Bangladesh’s capabilities in overcoming maritime disputes in an affable manner were brought to light too.

Realising the sheer importance of maritime sector for the economy of Bangladesh, Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) was formed in 2008 with 23 countries of the Indian Ocean, to facilitate maritime trade and commercial activities, and also to promote better and viable livelihood opportunities, ensuring job sustainability and economic growth. Thus, maritime sector’s security from criminal propensities and untoward element was emphasized at the forum.

While stressing on the significance of generating sustainable value and economic benefits from ocean resources, he alluded to the concept of Blue Economy and expressed “We all are aware of the fact that Indian Ocean in contemporary times has the greatest strategic and economic value. It carries huge prospects and potentials to facilitate maritime trade and commerce.”

For the first time, multiple military drills of the forum were showcased in the Bay of Bengal. These exercises ranged from rescue and firefighting operations to discovery of missing fishing trawlers and bringing the accidental ships back to the harbour. Efforts to protect the lives of the people at sea was specifically communicated with the responsibility being shared regionally. Twentythree countries comprising France, Indonesia, Oman, Pakistan, Australia, Bangladesh,Iran, Kenya, the Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Sicilia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Timur Leseth, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom participated at the forum. Apart from this, nine countries were felicitated as observer countries – China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Russia and Spain.

The forum was attended by IONS Chairman Admiral Mr. Nizamuddin Ahmed,Bangladesh Army Chief General Mr. Abu Belal Muhammad Shafiul Huq, Bangladesh Air Force Chief Marshal Mr. Abu Esrar, Malaysian Naval Chief Admiral Mr. Kamarulzaman, Myanmar Naval Chief Admiral Mr.Tin Aung San ,and naval and maritime experts. It also had participation of the naval fleets from India, China, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Iran

While congratulating Bangladesh as a peace-loving country, Mr.Hamid remarked,“Being one of the highest troops contributing nations in the UN peacekeeping operations for the last two decades is a true manifestation of our commitment towards world peace.”

Nagaland Hosts North East Connectivity Summit 2017

Northeast Connectivity Summit 2017

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) in collaboration with the government of Nagaland organized a two-day North-East Connectivity summit, “Connect North East- 2017”, at the NBCC Convention Centre in later September. With focal emphasis on tourism and connectivity with neighboring countries like Myanmar and Bangladesh, the theme chosen for “Connect NorthEast-2017” was ‘Act East from Nagaland’.

The Chief Minister of Nagaland, Mr. TR Zeliang, addressed the summit with issues like connectivity and tourism engagements, investment and infrastructural prospects. FICCI North East Advisory Council chairman Mr. Ranjit Barthakur avowed the importance of exploring connectivity based infrastructure and investment canvas with Myanmar, Japan, Laos, Russia, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Thailand also, apart from the immediate seven North-Eastern Indian states.

The 4th edition of the North-East Connectivity Summit was attended by people across the spectrum from policy makers, corporates, researchers from think-tanks and central government ministries. Stakeholders belonging to civil aviation, ASEAN region, inland waterways, telecommunication, and financial institution also took part in the event.

With the objective of enhancing Northeast India’s connectivity scope with other countries, the discussions steered through development opportunities, trade and business engagements, and communication and cultural exchange prospects.

Important highlights from the summit involved identifying people to people connectivity opportunities and tourism, establishment of an Economic Corridor with Southeast Asia and other infrastructural requirements.

Myanmar’s Minister of Cultural Affairs Mr. Sai Kyaw Zaw expressed his support and keen interest in harnessing Northeast India’s development potential, and invited stakeholders and people from Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram – as Myanmar shares long borders with all these four states – to develop closer and integrative ties with Myanmar.

With diplomatic participation at the forum, Mr. Kenko Sone, Minister, Economic Affairs, Embassy of Japan expressed, “The northeastern region is located at a strategically and economically important juncture between India and Southeast Asia as well as within the Bimstec community. Therefore, Japan has placed a particular importance on the cooperation in the northeastern region.”

Due to the enormous untapped potential residing in and about the northeastern region, it is essential to establish a shift from the negative lens through which Northeast is commonly perceived – neglect, lack of adequate infrastructure, lesser capabilities – to positive aspects of hospitality, grace in its inborn culture and its production pattern of growth as remarked by former Indian Ambassador to Myanmar Mr. Gautam Mukhopadhaya.

The summit charted paths and resolutions indicating the need to develop and strengthen the “Northeast Brand”. This triggered consultations on developing the North-East Ring Road, North East Implementation Agency and High Powered Economic Forum to ensure efficient planning and execution of projects which would aid the region in attracting investments for rapid upgradation.

The 2018 North East Connectivity Summit would be held in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh.

Brahmaputra Biodiversity Biology Boat (B4) Built to Study Brahmaputra’s Ecosystem

Aligned to India’s Act East Policy, the North-eastern region of India, is reckoned as an expressway to South-East Asia. Weighed with this significance and potentiality, advancement in the region through scientific technology and innovation is the need of the hour.

Scientific research of Brahmaputra’s ecosystem through India’s first floating laboratory on boat –B4, is one of the three biotechnological missions undertaken by the Ministry of Science and Technology, in the North-eastern region of India.

Brahmaputra Biodiversity Biology Boat (B4) is equipped to study and analyse the change in climate, the anthropogenic components, other topographical features such as soil, water, and the flora and fauna of the region.

“No major river for this size had been studied in this particular region. In future, such projects would be connected with other similar projects in the country,” said Dr.Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Science and Technology and Environment.

With the initial investment of Rs.50 crores dedicated to the project, B4’s operation would commence in later December. The early phase of research on this boat would be covering the region from Pasighat, Dibrugarh, Neemati, Tejpur and Guwahati in Assam.

Brahmaputra Biodiversity Biology Boat (B4) is a two-storied barge, enabling scientists to govern thorough research of the factors impacting the river, and discovering valid means of mitigation as well. The second floor of the floating laboratory boat would be for educational purpose, making the local community cognizant of the current condition and characteristics of the ecosystem from a scientific perspective.

The officials and the scientists from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) have planned to connect the B4 barge with other small and mobile lab boats along the tributaries of the Brahmaputra. Apart from this, links with local research institutions and national laboratories have also been arranged to facilitate the research procedure of B4 by feeding it with adequate data.

Biotechnology to Turn Assam into an Organic Hub

Guwahati Biotech Park

Galvanized by the boon of biotechnological application elevating the economic potential and scenario, the state of Assam has welcomed the Guwahati Biotech Park by laying the foundation stone of its Technology Incubation Center.

Assam is the northeastern paradise of natural resources—microbial, medicinal, plant and animal species correctly acknowledged and recognized as one of the biodiversity hotspot regions. Naturally endowed with resources and crops of rich commercial value and economic viability, the bio-resource potential of the region is vast.

Tapping onto its plethora of natural gems and organic farming skills, Assam’s Chief Minister Mr. Sarbananda Sonowal perceive biotechnology as an instrumental tool in enhancing value creation and production, and most importantly in leading Assam as an organic hub.

He believes that application oriented science is the new, rewarding and smarter way of life, triggering the state’s competency in capturing the organic market of the Southeast Asian region.

Skilled and proficient in traditional methods of farming, biotechnological intervention in the same would ensure more productivity and better wealth prospects, particularly in Assam’s agro based industry.

The technology incubation center is being established with a view to integrate and instill a scientific culture of biotechnology. This knowledge-based sector of biotech is being lauded as an emblem of progress, employment and an economic booster, leading and impacting the state’s social and economic development goals.

Pronouncing Assam as an important gateway to Southeast Asia, Mr. Sonowal encourages the youth and the people in general to embrace and develop science based skills and evolve their entrepreneurial development. In effect, generating and promoting business in biotechnology, enhancing research and development activities, as well as augmenting the prospects and scale of biotech industry, is the driving force behind the setting up of Technology Incubation Center of Guwahati Biotech Park.

Media Fosters Closer Ties Between Myanmar and India

India-Mayanmar Friendship Road

Viewing the integrative and comprehensive role that media plays in bringing the two countries closer, a two- day media interactive programme was conducted at Sangai Hall of Hotel Imphal in the capital of Manipur. The conclave was attended by high profiled dignitaries and media representatives of India and Myanmar in the quest to interact, engage and innovate ways to further the bilateral relations between India and Myanmar in a manner more amicable and cooperative.

The inaugural session was addressed by the Chief Minister of Manipur Mr. Biren Singh wherein he lauded his government’s initiative in introducing a bus service between Manipur in India to Mandalay in Myanmar in order to facilitate ease in people to people connectivity and smooth exchange of ideas and information. Further, Mr.Biren expressed “The External Affairs ministry has also been urged to take up necessary steps for visa issues by the respective embassies of the two countries.”

The notion behind the organisation of a media interaction programme between India and Myanmar was rooted in Mr. Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Myanmar wherein the idea was proposed by him. The conclave has been reckoned seminal in advancing the bilateral relations of both the neighbouring countries wherein the role of Media as an effective and a powerful tool in delivering good governance to the people has been given central importance to.

The cooperation and participation of Press Council of India and Myanmar Press Council at the event highlighted and corroborated the significance of media in democracy in building and sustaining relationships between people of both the nations, at the same time comprehending the political and economic climate of each other in an easier and more accessible manner.

The thrust of the conclave resided on exploring Media’s role in promoting ‘India’s Act East Policy’, ‘Capacity building of media personnel in Myanmar and India’ and ‘Media’s role in promoting connectivity and trade between Myanmar and India.’

Eliminating Blood Honey and Support Tiger Conservation in The Sunderbans

Tiger Consrvation in the Sunderbans

The boat glides slowly into a channel between two islands. The silhouettes of the mangrove trees rear up like sentinels into the clear night sky, just hours before dawn. Sanatan Sardar, 35, barely notices the mysterious beauty of the Sundarbans forests, he is more concerned about guiding his boat with his group into the Sundarbans to collect wild honey.

Moulis like Sanatan are the traditional honey gatherers in the Sundarbans who venture into the forest during honeycollection season, which lasts for about three months in a year.

Sanatan is from the Sardarpara village on Satjelia island of Sundarbans and is the leader of his group, the most experienced and skilled. His group, mostly family members, venture out together with each trip lasting between 7-15 days. The Forest Department issues a license every season to leaders like Sanatan for collection of wild honey from the Sundarbans. Over 3000 honey collectors are issued permits each year to enter designated forest areas for honey collection. Honey collectors make nearly 6000 rupees every month during the season. However, such forays into the forest are fraught with danger. In the past 15 years, nearly 100 honey collectors have lost their lives to tiger attacks. Therefore, the moniker ‘blood honey’.

Sanatan and his group are well aware of this danger and exercise precautions. While in the forest, certain members of the group specially act as look outs for tigers and post collection, each group anchor their boat only in the middle of the creek between islands to prevent tiger attacks. However, in spite of such precautions, honey collectors are still at risk. These men are the sole earning members of their families, and an attack could put the future of an entire family at risk.

WWF-India has been working in the Sundarbans since 1973 with a focus on conserving its biodiversity, particularly tigers, as well as promoting alternate livelihood and clean energy solutions for local communities to reduce conflict with wildlife and pressures on natural habitat with the objective of achieving a harmonious co-existence in the region. This issue of wild honey collection and its impact on the lives of honey collectors is a priority concern for WWF-India as well as the policy and decision makers in Sundarbans.

Sustainable and safe honey production

Apiculture in forest fringes of Indian Sundarbans within the state of West Bengal with Apis mellifera is in large scale. Approximately 5,545,281 kg of honey valuing 419,676,874 was produced over a period of seven years (2005–2012) from the apiculture. WWF-India believes that the fatal casualties associated with the livelihood of honey collection can be avoided if traditional honey collectors are permitted to keep apiary boxes in designated forest areas to produce honey instead of going into the forest to extract wild honey. Human-wildlife interaction will thereby be reduced to zero and at the same time the community will be assured of a harvest. This option will also help in receiving community support for tiger conservation in the Indian Sundarbans. WWF-India in collaboration with Sundarban Biosphere Reserve Directorate have designed pilot studies since 2014 to establish a safe and sustainable honey production in Sundarbans.

Honey BeeExcerpts from the pilot studies

The results of the pilot studies exceeded expectations!The daily yield of honey from each apiary box has been nearly double the quantity collected by groups such as those of Sanatan’s. The honey prepared in these boxes were tested for quality at the Kolkata lab of Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS)and Bose Institute, Kolkata and it matched the standards set by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).The results of the study bode well for groups such as Sanatan’s who by setting up such apiary boxes can avoid going into the forests of Sundarbans. Collection of such blood-free honey, if adopted on a large scale, has the capacity to eliminate casualties due to tiger attacks.

Optimism and concerns

Sanatan Sardar is upbeat about the collaborative initiatives of WWF-India and Sundarban Biosphere Reserve Directorate initiatives in Sundarbans, as this option has emerged as a safe and secure livelihood option. In various stakeholder discussions, the honey collectors have shown interest to shift towards this secure and sustainable livelihood option. There are requests from other honey collectors in the region to be trained on apiculture and willingness to shift from the present practice.

WWF-India is engaging with the Forest Department to set up bottling units in around 46 forest fringe villages of Sundarbans which enable honey collectors to convert their product into saleable table honey to increase sales. Discussions are underway to develop institutional mechanism of honey collection, processing and marketing. Apart from this engagement, a practical manual is being prepared in association with scientific institutions for the honey collectors to maintain industry standards. It is also important to eliminate middle men from the chain and ensure that the local communities directly sell their products in the market.

More ground to cover

WWF-India believes that there is more ground to cover regarding long term sustainability and scalability of this initiative which would stand scientific scrutiny. WWF-India in collaboration with premiere scientific institutes are carrying out ecological studies to assess carrying capacity and pollination ecology to estimate honey yield. The carrying capacity of Sundarbans forests will help determine how many apiary boxes can be placed to ensure economic feasibility of this initiative at a large scale. Further, WWF-India aims to create market linkages for the honey collectors to ensure a premium price for this high quality honey and is already in discussion with marketing entities and certification agencies thereby helping to improve profit margins while reducing the risks associated with this livelihood.

Courtesy: Ratul Saha, Landscape Coordinator-Sundarbans Landscape, WWF-India Team

Conference on Indo-Myanmar Relations Held in Yangon

Indian Ambessador to Myanmar Mr. Vikram Misri
Indian Ambassador to Myanmar -Mr. Vikram Misri

Rooted in similar cultural, civilizational and historical ethos – Myanmar and India’s ever evolving friendship, in a way, has past common threads nourishing both the countries in an amicable relationship.

To commemorate and strengthen the proximity between both the countries, Institute of Social and Cultural Studies (ISCS) and Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies (MISIS), jointly organised the two-day conference on “India-Myanmar Relations: The Way Forward” at Pan Pacific Yangon Hotel in early November.

The way forward toward a more peaceful, secured and conciliatory association between India and Myanmar underscored the schedule of the conference.

Indian Ambassador to Myanmar Mr. Vikram Misri while addressing the inaugural session of the conference avowed the significance of forging stronger and closer security ties between the countries of Myanmar and India; to be able to strategically and skilfully avert threats and collectively help mitigate situation of menace and imminent danger. He also asserted, “Our security forces must work closely to deny any space to extremist groups who threaten our nations.” He vouched for India’s undeterred support in aiding Myanmar in matters of peacemaking, national reconciliation and economic development. He highlighted India’s potency in tackling with insurgency related problems, and thus, learnings from India in this regard could benefit Myanmar in achieving its peace processes.

Further, the talks at the conference affirmed the need to make India-Myanmar border region a conflict free zone by revamping the infrastructure by giving it a modernised layout, with testing labs, banking infrastructure and visa- onarrival facilities being promoted and encouraged for boosting bilateral trade. Thus, peace negotiator Mr. U Aung Min while emphasising Indo-Myanmar interest in restoring peace in border region, advocated for switching border region space of conflict to zone of development, along with the need to contain transborder insurgencies.

With the scope of developing and maturing people to people contacts between the two countries, it is imperative to address border region challenges essentially. Moreover, the need for cross border investments and easy bilateral trade procedures holds the key in forging closer relations with Myanmar.

The conference encouraged exchange programmes between the academicians and the researchers, and it also acknowledged an increase in scholarships presented to students from Myanmar by India. Myanmar foreign ministry’s permanent secretary Mr. U Kyaw Zeya expressed,“Myanmar’s relation with India is constantly improving and the bilateral trade has gone up several times from 323 million US dollars in 1998 to 2.65 billion US dollars last year.”

India and Bangladesh to Construct a Bridge Over Khawthlangtuipui River

Bridge Khawthlangtuipui River

To ensure enhancement in trade and ease in the connectivity of the two neighboring countries; India and Bangladesh, the decision to construct a bridge over Mizoram’s Khawthlangtuipui River has been given a green signal.

Karnaphuli River
Karnaphuli River

With Bangladesh, India shares the largest international land boundary; 4096 km, most with any of its neighbors.

Ms Sheikh Hasina
The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Ms. Sheikh Hasina

Rowshan Ara Khanam, an official from Bangladesh shared, “The proposed bridge would be an important linkage between India and Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government has taken a number of steps to make it a reality. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Ms. Sheikh Hasina has given the approval to construct the bridge and link roads.”

It has been suggested to construct the bridge nearest to the land customs station in Bangladesh. The effort aspires to strengthen ties between the working of both the countries; hassle-free road connectivity and smooth communications.

The meeting to roll out this decision was arranged at the Tlabung town, Mamit district in Mizoram which lies in close proximity to the Khagrachari district of Bangladesh.