Remarks of the President and Lieutenant General Hussain Mohammad Ershad, President of the Council of Ministers of Bangladesh, Following Their Meetings

October 25, 1983

The President. Today we're honored to welcome Lieutenant General H. M. Ershad, President of the Council of Ministers of Bangladesh.

Over the past year and a half, General Ershad's government has taken steps to restore democratic institutions and economic growth to the people of Bangladesh. In our useful and cordial conversations today, the General and I have had an opportunity to discuss these admirable goals and other matters of concern to our two countries. We especially appreciate the General's dedication to the economic development of his country. The self-help reforms which his government has put in place reflect this commitment to reinvigorate development and better the lives of the Bangladesh people.

General Ershad's government understands the vital role of private enterprise. Changes taking place should attract private investment to the opportunities available in that deserving country. The United States is proud of its long association and support for the people of Bangladesh. Today we pledge our continued support. We look forward to further cooperation between our two governments as Bangladesh seeks to overcome problems of hunger, overpopulation, and poverty.

In the political realm, the General has now set in motion a process designed to build a broad base of popular support for economic and social development in his country. We endorse this goal since we believe that long-term political stability can be achieved only through representative government.

Lastly, the United States wishes to applaud Bangladesh, a member of the nonaligned movement, for its constructive approach to issues of regional and global concern. To cite only a few examples: Bangladesh clearly manifested its courage and resolve in its unswerving responses to aggression in Afghanistan and Kampuchea. It also took the lead in establishing the South Asian Regional Cooperation Organization, a body designed to build a more prosperous and stable region for the people of South Asia. Bangladesh's foreign policy has exhibited an activism, moderation, and force of moral conviction which has earned the respect of the world.

General Ershad, we hope that the remainder of your visit to this country will be pleasant, and we're happy to have had you with us.

General Ershad. Excellency, President Ronald Reagan, distinguished representatives of the United States news media, ladies and gentlemen, it is both a great privilege and pleasure for my wife and myself and for the members of my delegation to be in the United States of America.

We are grateful to President Ronald Reagan for the thoughtful and cordial invitation which he has kindly extended to visit this great country. We bring with us the warm greetings and sincere good wishes of the people of Bangladesh.

My meeting with the President was very satisfying, and I thank him for having received me despite his preoccupation at this critical moment. The comprehensive and productive exchange of views which we have just had is an unmistakable demonstration of our friendship. The object of my visit is to reinforce and consolidate the relations between the United States of America and Bangladesh, which, I'm happy to say, has been achieved.

During our meeting, the President and I covered a wide range of subjects. It gives me great pleasure to say that we have had the opportunity of reaffirming our two countries' shared perceptions and close identity of interests in strengthening the process of peace, progress, and prosperity for mankind.

I have apprised the President of the intensive level of activity which my government has undertaken to improve the quality of life of our 95 million people, a large measure of whom live in rural Bangladesh. I have explained that my government is committed to laying firm political and economic foundations for the long-term development and social benefits for our people. We have already undertaken significant measures in the fields of population control, food production, rural unemployment, and energy production. These have involved the organization and decentralization of our administration, the streamlining of our judiciary, and extensive work in reviewing colonial laws, on the one hand, and our outdated education system, on the other. We hope, sir, that these basic efforts will substantially reinforce the base we must have for the restoration and maintenance of democratic values which are integral to our society.

We are about to launch ourselves into local government elections this winter, followed by elections at progressively higher political echelons throughout 1984, leading to the elections to our Parliament in March 1985. Over 40 million people will go to the polls, not merely to elect their representative, sir, but to lay the political and economic foundation for our future, to enable our people to live freely and to live with honor and dignity by the grace of God.

The President and I have agreed to explore possible ways and means towards furthering strengthening the close bonds of friendship and cooperation between our two countries. Indeed, I am most grateful to you, sir, for the deep and abiding interest you have personally shown in the welfare and progress of our people and for the moral support and economic assistance which have been extended to us.

As members of the Organized Islamic Conference, an unaligned movement in the Commonwealth, and -- [inaudible] -- as chairman of the Group of 77, Bangladesh firmly believes the current international economic situation needs the closest vigilance by the whole community of nations, recognizing that interdependability is indispensable as a way of life in this day and age. The role of the United States is a crucial and critical one in this regard. It is, indeed, a matter of great satisfaction that the President and I, in discussing these issues, fully agree that global peace and stability is closely interlinked with the need to restore confidence in the current economic climate in both developing and developed countries.

We in Bangladesh deeply appreciate the importance of the vital role of the United States in upholding the principles of maintaining peace and stability in the world, as enshrined in the charter of the United Nations. I warmly welcome your recent reassuring statement in the United Nations General Assembly in this regard.

I'd like to mention here that I have conveyed to the President our profound sorrow and anguish at the tragic loss of life in the recent days in Beirut. We share your grief, and on behalf of my government and people, I extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased.

My wife and I have been deeply touched by the warm hospitality extended to us and the members of our delegation. Our stay in the U.S. Capital, the beautiful city of Washington, though short, has been most pleasant and rewarding. I have no doubt that I speak on behalf of all of us when I say that we shall treasure these happy moments and cherish the memory of your warm friendship.

During our meeting, I extend our most cordial invitation to the President to pay a state visit to Bangladesh as early as is convenient. It is my sincere hope that you will visit our country soon and see for yourself the high esteem in which you are held and the enormous fount of good will that exists in Bangladesh for your people.

Mr. President, I wish you good health, happiness, long life, and every success. And I thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the media, for your time and patience.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:10 p.m. to reporters assembled in the East Room at the White House.

Earlier, the President and General Ershad met in the Oval Office and held a working luncheon, together with U.S. and Bangladesh officials, in the State Dining Room.