Countries in SEA must move beyond majority-minority mindset: Hasina

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NEW DELHI, Oct 4 (PTI): Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday said South Asian countries must move beyond the “majority-minority mindset” as pluralism is the strength of the region.

Speaking at a session of the India Economic Summit here, Hasina also said South Asian countries must manage their geopolitical realities through friendship and collaboration, and not trade-off long-term interest for short-term gains.

“South Asia must emerge as a connected, friendly and competitive region, always ready to build bridges with other regions,” she said during a panel discussion.

Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, Executive Vice-Chairperson Apollo Hospitals Shobana Kamineni, Sequoia Capital India Managing Director Shailendra Singh, Booking.com chairwoman Gillian Tans and World Economic Forum Founder Klaus Schwab were also part of the discussion.

Bangladesh continues to champion regional cooperation with groupings such as BIMSTEC, BBIM, BCIM and SAARC, Hasina, who is on a four-day visit to India, said.

“Establishing of connectivity will give a door to us to cooperate with each other and increase trade,” she said.

Hasina noted that in the past decade, there were many “lofty” regional ideas and initiatives with some succeeding while others failing to deliver.

“As I look into the next decade, I think we should follow certain principles — first we must strive to secure peace, stability and harmony for every individual across our societies. We must move beyond the majority-minority mindset. Pluralism has been the strength of South Asia,” she said.

The countries in the region should be able to celebrate South Asia’s diversity — regional, ethnic and linguistic — Hasina said.

“The second is that we must ensure that inequalities across societies do not widen,” she said, adding that wealth creation should be inclusive and should reach the bottom strata.

The least developed countries should get priority and the focus should be on mutual trust and respect between all countries, the Bangladeshi prime minister said.

“We need to get over misperceptions and false apprehensions,” she said, without elaborating.

Bangladesh has been consistently contributing to the maintenance of peace and security in global spheres, emanating from its policy of friendship to all and malice to none, Hasina said at the discussion titled ‘Strengthening South Asia, Impacting the World’.

“This approach helps us in maintaining good relations with all countries. In 1996, Bangladesh resolved sharing of Ganges river water with India. We amicably delimited our maritime boundary with India and Myanmar. Bangladesh and India are now developing trans-boundary river navigation,” she said.

Such collaborative culture is essential for the region’s politics, economy and society, she said. “We must manage our geopolitical realities through friendship and collaboration. Let us appreciate and balance regional, political realities for the interest of our peoples,” she added.

Hasina cited the example of her country trying to resolve the issue of 1.1 million refugees from Myanmar by holding talks.

The Bangladeshi prime minister asserted that poverty is “our main enemy”.”Let us work together to eradicate poverty,” she said.

Hasina highlighted how due to sound economic policies, her country is growing at a rate of 8.13 per cent.

She also said Bangladesh can act as a bridge between South Asia and South East Asia. In her remarks, Hasina said her father and first Bangladeshi president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had said that if Bangladesh has to be successful, it has to connect with its neighbour and grow together.

She also recalled how on August 15, 1975, her entire family was brutally murdered. “Almost 18 members of my family were murdered. Unfortunately my sister and me were abroad. I say unfortunately as when you lose everybody, it is a very difficult time,” the Bangladeshi prime minister said.

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