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Bangladesh pillar of India’s neighbourhood first policy, Modi tells Hasina

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BY S VENKAT NARAYAN

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, December 17: Bangladesh is a major pillar of India’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina during India-Bangladesh summit-level talks held virtually on Thursday.

“Bangladesh is a major pillar of our ‘neighbourhood first’ policy, and it has been a special priority for me from Day 1 to strengthen our relations with Bangladesh. Today, I pay my respect to the martyrs of our both sides who sacrificed their lives during the 1971 war which marked our victory against the anti-Liberation forces,” Modi said.

He also greeted Bangladesh for the celebration of centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Hasina’s father.

Modi reiterated that removal of obstacles to land connectivity and growing trade has changed the texture of Indo-Bangladesh relationship.

Hasina said: “A good number of Indians are employed in service and manufacturing sector in Bangladesh and are remittance earners for India. On the other hand, India receives its highest number of tourists and medical patients from Bangladesh. I believe both our countries can move up the global and regional value chain further integrating our economies and taking advantage of our synergies.”

The two leaders remotely launched the rail link between Haldibari in West Bengal with Chilahati in Bangladesh after a 55-year gap. It was last operational in 1965 and is being restarted now. Upgradation works of the old rail lines were carried out by the rail authorities on both sides before the inauguration.

The two sides also concluded seven agreements covering areas such as hydrocarbon cooperation, High Impact Community Development Projects, elephant conservation, solid waste management, agriculture, and terms of reference of India-Bangladesh CEOs forum. An agreement between the National Museum of India and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Museum in Dhaka was also declared.

Hasina said: “Our relations have embarked on a landmark moment. Bangladesh has stepped into the 50th year of its independence. Our relations are also stepping into the 50th year. We have chalked out programmes for the entire coming year that will jointly mark our collaboration in the Liberation War.” She pointed out that despite the pandemic during the previous months, both sides had worked together to ensure connectivity, and trade continued uninterrupted.

Hasina expressed satisfaction over the interconnection between the economies of India and Bangladesh.



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Cardinal: Was there any link between passage of 20A and Easter Sunday probe outcome?

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… stands by his claim of foreign involvement

By Norman Palihawadana

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday said that there could be a connection between the outcome of the probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the enlisting of Muslim MPs’ support for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

The Cardinal said: “The leader of a Muslim political party voted against the 2Oth Amendment. But his MPs voted for it. The brother of Rishad Bathiudeen too was released around the same time. These are questionable developments. These events could be part of a deal.”

The Cardinal reiterated that international forces were behind the Easter Sunday attacks and that he did not believe that there had been any local political group directly involved in the Easter attacks.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Cardinal said that the remarks he made on Sunday had been misunderstood. He stood by his claim that international forces had been behind the attacks, he said.

“However, some people claim that I said a local political group was behind the attack. I have always maintained that there are international forces that use religious and ethnic extremists such as Wahabists to create conflicts. I was referring to such groups.”

The Cardinal added that only a small group of Muslims was involved in extremism.

The Archbishop also said that former President Maithripala Sirisena believed that taking action against extremists like NTJ leader Zahran Hashim would create unnecessary issues.

“Something along these lines is also in the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks. The report also implies that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was lenient in dealing with growing extremism in Sri Lanka.”

The Cardinal urged the government to protect the country and ensure that there would be no repeats of incidents like the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Archbishop of Colombo requested all religious leaders to work on rebuilding trust among all communities.

 

 

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AG appeals to Supreme Court against granting of bail to Ravi, others

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The Attorney General yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court against bail for former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and seven others indicted in the bond case by the Colombo Special High Court Trial-at-Bar.

The eight accused were arrested and remanded over the bond scams. Later, they were released on bail.

The court warned that if the accused attempted to exert influence on the witnesses, by any means, bail would be revoked and they would be placed on remand until the end of the trial.

 

 

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26 more coronavirus cases detected in Jaffna Tirunelveli market area

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Another 26 COVID-19 cases had been detected on Sunday, from the Tirunelveli Market in Jaffna, which was the epicentre of the recent outbreak in the town, Dr. A. Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday.

The market and its surroundings had been reopened on April 11 following a 19-day lockdown. However, 378 PCR tests were conducted after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and 26 of them proved positive.

Dr. Kethiswaran warned last week that there might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna after the New Year celebrations.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported in Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be lockdown, he warned.

“It’s too early to say whether we have to close the area down. We are monitoring the situation,” DR. Kethiswaran said.

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