Stating that India’s decision to ban export of onions led to difficulties for the people in the neighbouring country, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday told a Delhi audience that it would be helpful if New Delhi informs Dhaka before taking such decisions in future.
With prices shooting up in markets across her country, Hasina added in jest that the she has asked her cook to not use onions while cooking at home.
Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal was present at the event when Hasina made the remarks.
Onion prices in Bangladesh have more than doubled since September 29, when India banned exports to stabilise prices in the domestic market —— up from 40-50 Takas (Rs 33-42) to 110 Takas (Rs 92) per kg.
Why Delhi’s move teared up Dhaka
Bangladesh is the top importer of Indian onion. The country accounted for nearly 31 per cent of India’s $496.82 million worth of exports of fresh or chilled onions in 2018-19. India exported 2.2 million tonnes of fresh onions in the fiscal ended March 31, according to Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority’s figures. Besides Bangladesh, Malaysia and Nepal are the other big importers.
Addressing the India-Bangladesh Business Forum in the national capital, Hasina moved off her prepared speech and said, “Thhoda sa notice dene se achchha hota, kyunki hum bhi thhoda doosra jagah se laa sakte thhe. Achanak bandh kar diya aur humaare liye yeh mushkil ban gaya; aagey se agar kisi bhi tarah aapko aise kuch karna hai, toh humein thoda sa pehle bataa dein (Prior notice of such decisions would help. You stopped exports suddenly; it became difficult for us. In future, if you are taking such a decision, prior information would help).”
Asked about Hasina’s remarks later, the Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson, Raveesh, said he has seen her comments and India will try to address her concerns.
In her speech, the Bangladesh Prime Minister said there is huge potential in her country for the Indian business community in different sectors.
Hasina said: “We are in the process of establishing 100 special economic zones, and about a dozen are ready, with four allotments to three countries. Bangladesh has offered three zones for Indian investors at Mongla, Bheramara and Mirsarai. Substantial investment from Indian investors in these economic zones would help broaden our exportable base.”
She said, “We also want to see trade and investment together where Indian investors can set up industries in Bangladesh and export the products to north-eastern states of India and to Southeast Asian countries, taking advantage of the improved connectivity between us.”
Speaking at the World Economic Forum’s India Economic summit, Hasina said: “In the next decade, we should follow certain principles — first we must try to secure peace, stability and harmony for every individual across our societies (in South Asian nations). We must move beyond the majority-minority mindset. Pluralism has been the strength of South Asia””
She said Bangladesh continues to champion regional cooperation with groupings such as BIMSTEC, BBIM, BCIM and SAARC. Hasina noted that in the past decade, there were many “lofty” regional ideas and initiatives, with some succeeding while others failed to deliver.
(inputs from Prabha Raghavan)