High Commissioner Harsh Vardhan Shringla is a career diplomat and a member of the Indian Foreign Service. In the course of a diplomatic career spanning 33 years, High Commissioner Shringla has held a variety of positions in New Delhi and abroad. Before his assignment in Bangladesh, he served as Ambassador of India to the Kingdom of Thailand. He has also served in France (UNESCO); USA (UN, New York); Vietnam (Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City); Israel and South Africa (Durban).
High Commissioner Shringla has served in the Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi as Joint Secretary (Director General) responsible for Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and the Maldives. He has also headed the United Nations Political and SAARC Divisions in the Ministry. Earlier, he served as Director of the Northern Division dealing with Nepal and Bhutan and as Deputy Secretary of the Europe West Division.
The High Commissioner has graduated from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University and has worked in the Corporate and Public Sectors in India prior to joining the Indian Foreign Service. He has pursued a course in conflict prevention in Columbia University, New York, a subject on which he has published an international paper. He has also published Papers on economic diplomacy and the Indian diaspora.
High Commissioner Shringla speaks French, Vietnamese and Nepalese apart from English and Indian languages. He is married to Mrs. Hemal Shringla and has one son.
Bangladesh and India have a deep, multidimensional and regional relationship. How do you evaluate this wonderful relationship?
In the last few years, India and Bangladesh have made huge strides towards building a multi-faceted bilateral relationship. We have expanded our engagement to include new areas of co-operation and deepened cooperation in existing ones. Today our relations cover an entire spectrum of areas of bilateral cooperation including security and border management; trade, commerce and investment, connectivity, energy and power; developmental projects, culture and greater people-to-people exchanges, etc. Visit of Hon’ble Prime Minister, H.E. Sheikh Hasina to India in April 2017 added a new chapter to the strengthening bilateral relationship, which Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi described as heralding of a ‘Sonali Adhyay’ or a Golden Era in our ties.
Bangladesh is a huge market for Indian products, and vice versa. How are you working to develop this trade relationship as the graduation of Indian economy has opened up opportunities for Bangladesh?
Majority of India’s exports to Bangladesh are raw materials and inputs such as cotton, machinery, boilers, rocks, limestone, etc. for the Bangladesh industry. For example, cotton (raw cotton, yarn, fabric, etc.) constituted 25.52% of our total exports to Bangladesh in 2016-17, which is a critical input for the Readymade Garments (RMG) industry of Bangladesh.
To promote Bangladesh’s exports to the Indian market, we are providing Bangladesh duty-free quota-free access since 2011 for all tariff lines except tobacco and alcohol. Following this, Bangladesh’s RMG exports to India have more than doubled to USD 129.81 million in 2016-17 from USD 55 million in 2011-12. In the period July-December 2017, Bangladesh’s RMG exports to India have registered a 66.41% increase.
Are there opportunities for foreign direct investment from India to Bangladesh? How are you encouraging it?
There is great potential for investment in Bangladesh in sectors such as renewable energy, skills development, power, pharmaceuticals, information & communication technology, hospitality, and infrastructure. Indian investment proposals registered with the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority exceed USD 3 billion. During the visit of Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh to India in April 2017, 13 business agreements worth an estimated USD 10 billion of mainly Indian investments in Bangladesh in the power and energy sectors were signed. Three Indian economic zones in the pipeline in Mirsarai, Bheramara, and Mongla in Bangladesh will further facilitate Indian investments in the country.
During the Honourable Prime Minister’s visit to India in April 2017, 13 business agreements, worth an estimate of $10 billion of mainly Indian investments in Bangladesh in the power and energy sectors, were signed. Three Indian economic zones in the pipeline in Mirsarai, Bheramara and Mongla in Bangladesh will further facilitate Indian investments in the country.
What is your opinion about the business environment and possibilities of Bangladesh in future?
Economic growth in Bangladesh in the last decade has been impressed with the country registering an average GDP growth of over 6% per annum. The economic growth has now crossed the 7% mark with Bangladesh’s GDP growing at 7.28% in 2016-17. In the last few years, Bangladesh has also made tremendous progress on the social and human development fronts. With Government of Bangladesh’s strong emphasis on further improving social and physical infrastructure, and facilitating foreign and domestic investment, Bangladesh is likely to continue on a high growth trajectory and generate new opportunities for both trade and investment.
During your diplomatic journey in Bangladesh, how do you evaluate our hospitality and the general mindset of people?
I am deeply touched and honored by the warmth and hospitality that has been extended to me since the commencement of my tenure in Bangladesh. Everything I have experienced here reflects the generosity of the people of Bangladesh. I have also traveled extensively within the country. I will always have fond memories of my stay in this country.
India’s support during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 was incredible. What are your thoughts on the bonding that these two countries have shared since then?
India and Bangladesh share the historical legacy of fighting and winning the Bangladesh Liberation War together. Very few countries have fought and shed blood together. Indian soldiers and Bangladeshi Muktijoddhas laid down their lives together and formed a bond, which would be difficult to find anywhere else in the world. This is an eternal bond of blood and sacrifice of our martyrs and will continue to bind our nations together in future.