Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said there can be differences but those should be addressed through dialogue – noting that in a number of areas, Bangladesh and India have done precisely that.
Hasina, during an interview with Indian news agency ANI, referred to the neighbouring country as a "tested friend", and said that India stood by Bangladesh in its hour of need, first in 1971 and then at later times as well.
"We always recall their contribution during the 1971 (Liberation) war. In 1975, when we lost our family members, the then Prime Minister gave us shelter in India… We are neighbours, close neighbours, and I always give priority to friendship with our neighbouring countries," she said.
Hasina lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi's initiative towards rescuing Bangladeshi students who were stuck in eastern Europe when the Russia-Ukraine war broke out.
In a free-wheeling television interaction with ANI, Prime Minister Hasina, who is set to visit India tomorrow (September 5, 2022), also lavished praises on the Modi government's gesture of providing Covid-19 vaccines to neighbouring countries under its "Vaccine Maitri" programme when the pandemic was at its peak.
The Bangladesh prime minister emphasised on closer cooperation between the two neighbours.
She marked out two areas for special praise where the Indian government's support helped Bangladeshi citizens.
"I would like to express my thanks to Prime Minister (Modi)… during this war between Russia and Ukraine, many of our students were stuck and they went to Poland for shelter. When they evacuated your students, Indian students, they also brought our students back home... You have shown a clearly friendly gesture. I thank the Prime Minister for this initiative," Hasina said.
She was responding to a question about remarks often made, especially by western observers, that there was a lack of cooperation among SAARC nations. To another question about the Indian government's Vaccine Maitri programme, Hasina said it was a "prudent" initiative taken by Prime Minister Modi.
"I really thank Prime Minister Modi for this initiative, and the way he... you know, contributed vaccines to not only Bangladesh, but also other South Asian countries, and it's been really very helpful."
"…Besides, we bought vaccines with our own money, and also many other countries contributed," Hasina said.
Hasina also gave details about her country's vaccination programme. Bangladesh has administered Covid-19 vaccines to 90 percent of its population.
"Usually, people from our country, especially at the village level, even in some towns also, I found many people very reluctant to take the vaccine. They don't want to take the... you know... the prick of the needle, so... we had to pursue them. We told them that this is nothing, it will save your life… this Vaccine Maitri itself... very good initiative," she said.
The relationship between the two countries should be for the betterment of their citizens, she said.
Hasina said even during the Covid 19 period, Indian leadership had shown their positive intentions as both the then President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Bangladesh as it celebrated its Independence Day.
"I thank Prime Minister Modi and also your honourable president. Both of them visited Bangladesh when we were celebrating the birth centenary of our Father of the Nation and also 50 years of our independence, and our friendship with India. India recognised Bangladesh early on, so that bond, I think that is our main priority. That their visit at such a time, even that time there was a Covid-19 pandemic but besides that, both of them honoured us, honoured our people," she said.