March 2017 \ Cover Story \ DIPLOMATIC INTERVIEW
“Our relationship with India is based on mutual benefit and equality”

H.E. Syed Muazzem Ali was born on July 18, 1944 in Sylhet. He obtained his Master’s Degree in Science from Dhaka University in 1966, and placed in the First class.

During Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Bangladesh, we have started Dhaka-Guwahati and Dhaka-Kolkata and Agartala Bus services. We have already upgraded our Mission in Agartala to Assistant High Commission level, and are going to open soon a new Deputy High Commission in Guwahati. We had earlier opened a Deputy High Commission in Mumbai. Both countries are now setting up Integrated Border Check Posts to facilitate passage of passengers and transportation of goods. So far, three such IC Posts have been established in Agartala-Akhaura, Benapole-Petrapole and Banglabandha areas. These ICPs will also significantly improve the connectivity between our two countries and in the sub-region. 

You have experienced the most historic occasion in your country, its separation from Pakistan in 1971. You yourself were serving in the Pakistan Embassy in Washington DC at that time. You lobbied very hard subsequently for the World Bank, UN and the USA to participate in the reconstruction efforts in war-ravaged Bangladesh. Would you say your country has come a long way since?
You would recall that in 1971 Bangladesh was termed as a ‘Bottomless Basket’. But today it is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, second largest garment exporter, 5th largest rice producer and one of the largest remittance earning countries. The average GDP growth for last 6 years has been 6.2% up from a 1.3% growth rate in 1970s. Last year it reached 7%. In 1970, foreign aid accounted for almost 75% of gross investment. Today ODA contributes roughly 2% of GDP. Our foreign currency reserve stands now at around 30 billion dollars. Bangladesh success in social sectors outplayed many countries in the South Asian Region. Bangladesh is now often mentioned as a ‘model of economic development’. We were the forerunner in achieving the MDGs and we are already in good position to achieve the SDGs as well. Recently, World Bank has ranked us as the lower middle income country in its ranking. Our ultimate pursuit is to become a Middle income country by 2021 and a developed country by 2041 to fulfill the dream of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to make Bangladesh a “Sonar Bangla”. So, yes, I would say the journey so far for Bangladesh has been a very positive story, and I am confident we will take it forward in the coming years.   


Before concluding, let me add that Bangladesh also plays a crucial role in Premier Modi’s “Look East, Act East” policy and he has made major efforts to promote sub-regional cooperation in our area under the aegis of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) and the conclusion of Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) has opened the great possibility for regional road connectivity. Side by side, a deep sea port is being developed by Bangladesh for the benefit of the entire region. We are also cooperating with each other in other regional fora such as BIMSTEC, BCIM, ESCAP etc.