Toast Speech delivered by PM Lee Hsien Loong at Official Lunch hosted in honour of Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina on 12 March 2018 at the Istana, during her Official Visit to Singapore from 11 to 14 March 2018.
Your Excellency Sheikh Hasina Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. May I offer a warm welcome to Prime Minister Hasina and her delegation. We last met a few years ago in 2015 on the sidelines of the Asian-African Summit in Jakarta. I am very happy to be hosting Prime Minister Hasina in Singapore on her first official visit here as the Prime Minister. It is a good opportunity for us to strengthen our partnership. Relations between Bangladesh and Singapore started early. After Bangladesh became independent in 1971, Singapore was the first ASEAN country to formally recognise Bangladesh. We established diplomatic ties in September 1972. Since then, ties between our leaders, our peoples, and our businesses have been growing steadily.
Our longstanding friendship is reinforced by rich cultural links. Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian Nobel Literature Laureate who also composed the national anthem of Bangladesh, visited Singapore in the 1920s. His reflections and travelogues of Southeast Asia were published as Jatri in 1929. There is a road in Singapore named after Rabindranath Tagore. It is called Tagore Avenue and it is in my Parliamentary constituency. We are very honoured to have this road named after him. Tagore’s works continue to bring generations of Singaporeans and Bangladeshis together through an appreciation of our shared cultural heritage. This sharing continues. This literary exchange continues between our two peoples today. A few years ago, our Institute of South Asian Studies partnered Banglar Kantha to launch six collections of poetry at “An Evening of Migrant Poetry and Music – Poems of Migration: Joys and Sorrows” In the words of one of the poets, Zakir Hossain Khokon, a Bangladeshi construction supervisor who has worked in Singapore since 2003, the poems make up a “poetic biography” of Bangladeshis here. Today, Khokon is a freelance journalist for Banglar Kantha and continues to write about his experience in Singapore. These strong people-to-people linkages form a key basis for our multi-faceted relationship.
Our economic cooperation is favoured by the complementarities between the two countries. The strategic locations of Singapore and Bangladesh facilitate the flow of people, goods and investment between our two regions. Bangladesh is located in the heart of South Asia, well positioned to interact with ASEAN and its neighbours. The Bay of Bengal links Bangladesh to Southeast Asia, India, and Sri Lanka. Singapore is a maritime nation situated between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, we should do more together. Singapore-based companies are keen on the growing Bangladeshi market. The MOU on Public Private Partnership, we signed just now will facilitate more investments by Singapore companies in Bangladesh, particularly in the power, connectivity and infrastructure sectors. Sembcorp is one of the largest investors in the energy sector, with over US$1.1 billion invested in power plants, while PSA is interested to explore opportunities in Chittagong Port.
I am very glad that the Prime Minister will be meeting Singapore-based companies at the Business Forum and roundtable tomorrow. Our economic agencies and business chambers will also be signing several agreements to enhance our cooperation and these will be an encouragement and a signal to the business people that relations between our two business communities and governments are good. The winds are favourable for their ventures if they decide to sail together. The signing of the updated Air Services Agreement which we also witnessed today will bring our peoples and businesses closer together. Together, we can bring our bilateral relations to greater heights.
Prime Minister, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, may I now invite you to join me in a toast to the good health and success of Prime Minister Hasina and her delegation and the close friendship and growing partnership between Bangladesh and Singapore for many years to come.
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