Sonia Gandhi for South Asian partnership on autism

Dhaka: Congress party president Sonia Gandhi on Monday praised Bangladesh's "path breaking innovations" in micro-finance, education, women's empowerment and public health as she underlined the need for a partnership in South Asia to provide affordable services to millions of autistic children.

"Bangladesh has been such a fertile source of social innovation," Sonia said while inaugurating an international conference on autism here.

"We applaud your achievements," she told the two-day conference, which was attended by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and global experts on autism.

Sonia, who arrived here yesterday, said Bangladesh was admired worldwide for its "path-breaking innovations" in micro-finance, education, women's empowerment, public health and sanitation and "we applaud your achievements".

"India has held together as one nation, deepened its democracy and accelerated its economic growth (while) Bangladesh has achieved economic and social success beyond anything thought possible at the time of its birth," she said in her 15-minute speech.

The UPA chairperson proposed a partnership in South Asia so that autistic children have an easy access to services on affordable expenses.

"On crucial issues like the fertility rate, proportion of underweight children, immunization, number of mean years of schooling, child and infant mortality rates, and life expectancy, you are ahead of us," she noted.

Sonia highlighted the shared history of the two nations and the great progress made by them over the decades.