Laced with greater understanding, maturity and mutual respect, Indo-Bangladesh ties reflect the epitome of bilateral relations
It is heartening to see that while India is vigorously addressing issues in the aftermath of the revocation of Article 370 and Bangladesh battling to overcome the prevailing Dengue menace and Rohingya crisis, both neighbours are engaging each other in a meaningful manner. This is evident from the Bangladesh Home Minister, Asaduzzaman Khan's recent visit to India discussing a wide range of vital issues of bilateral concerns with his Indian counterpart, Amit Shah. The meeting was on the occasion of the 7th Home Ministers level conference held in New Delhi on August 7.
Highlights of the issues discussed were on working out measures to counter spiralling cases of terrorism, narcotics trade, smuggling, human trafficking, sharing of hard time intelligence, steps to stem the flow of Fake Indian Currency Note (FICN) and other related matters. Both, Indian and Bangladesh sides comprising senior Home Ministry officials had meaningful deliberations. The Bangladesh delegation brought to the notice of the Indian Home Ministry officials of the cases of alleged killings of unarmed and innocent Bangladeshis by the BSF. This has always been a sore point with Bangladesh.
Union Home Minister, Amit Shah in his maiden outreach talking to a visiting foreign dignitary, called upon his Bangladesh counterpart, Asaduzzaman Khan to stop illegal migration from Bangladesh through the porous borders as this was imperative as the NRC is likely to be finalised shortly. Both sides agreed to secure the borders to prevent illegal migration and movements of terrorists/smugglers. Also, India and Bangladesh decided to address all the outstanding issues pending between them. Amit Shah assured Asaduzzaman Khan that India would stand by Bangladesh in helping the early return of Rohingya refugees, now sheltered in Bangladesh. The Indian Home Minister also reminded his guest that India has been rendering humanitarian assistance to Bangladesh for the Rohingyas ever since they came to Bangladesh soil in 2017.
Further, the Indian Home Minister called for an intensified people-to-people contact in areas of travel, tourism, health, etc. Importantly, Amit Shah thanked the Bangladesh Home Minister for keeping Bangladesh free from extremists and insurgents belonging to India. Equally, he reaffirmed India's support to Prime Minister Hasina in all her developmental programmes. On the whole, Amit Shah handled the visit and discussions with deftness and finesse, given the fact that this was his first exposure of such an assignment. He went on to tweet which says, "I had extensive discussion on the bilateral relations between India and Bangladesh".
Coincidentally, a day earlier, another Bangladesh dignitary, the visiting Bangladesh Minister for Railways, Nurul Islam Sujon, held talks with Indian Railways Minister, Piyush Goyal at Rail Bhavan on August 6. Both decided to enhance the frequency of Kolkata-Khulna-Kolkata Bandhan express due to growing demands of frequent rail connectivity. Similarly, both the sides touched upon prospects of activating train service from Chittagong accessing Indian North-Eastern states as they have the promise of an increase in volumes of trade. There is also a likelihood of taking major initiatives in the not so distant future.
Meanwhile, active preparations are already afoot for the Indian External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar's upcoming visit to Dhaka in the third week of this month. While the specific agenda for the EAM's visit is being finalised, it is likely to further boost the existing warm relations between the two countries. The EAM will call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and discuss crucial issues not only of bilateral concern but on regional security as well.
EAM is known to be focussing on 'neighbourhood first' policy as seen from his earlier visits to Nepal and Bhutan. More importantly, however, the EAM will discuss the modalities of Prime Minister Hasina's forthcoming India visit scheduled in October this year. That will also set the tone of Bangladesh PM's visit as it is likely to assume huge significance due to the fast-changing international scenario. With India's most recent bold move in abrogating Article 370 and bifurcating J&K and Ladakh into two Union Territories, Hasina's emerging India visit is seen important especially in the aftermath of Pakistan and Chinese reactions. In the past, Prime Minister Modi has publicly eulogised Hasina for her leadership qualities and under them, both the countries have cemented their ties taking them at an all-time high. A new streak of better understanding and chemistry seem to be working in Indo-Bangladesh relations. Today, the ties are also laced with maturity and mutual respect. And this precious acquisition needs to be preserved for posterity.
Both countries need each other not only for sharing a common culture, rich heritage and similar history, but also to reinforce the dynamics of mutual strategic requirements as both are afflicted with threats of terror. In light of this, the frequent visits and talks at the ministers' level and the EAM visit are sufficient signals that both the countries accord importance to each other, sharing mutual concerns.
On part of India, Bangladesh remains a staunch ally having proven its friendship time and again by refusing to entertain anti-India hostile forces on its soil. Also, by often reaffirming friendship by recalling Indian military's sacrifices and standing by the side of Bangladeshi freedom fighters in the liberation war of 1971.
Both neighbours also have immense respect for each other's sovereignty without interfering into their internal matters. Hasina's high profile China visit last month did not cause many ripples in India perhaps due to their growing understanding of each other. Hasina's October visit to India must be seized by the latter for more focussed bilateral ties. Jointly, both countries can lead this South Asian region for lasting peace, free of terror.
Hasina, with her vision, already outlined specifically up to 2021, for lifting her country into a new horizon, coincides with Father of the Nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's centenary celebrations falling in 2022. That said, Hasina needs to ensure her personal security with a 'zero error' margin due to her surging popularity possibly incurring the wrath of many inimical quarters meriting their timely neutralisation. It is hoped that EAM's forthcoming visit will get this critical point duly highlighted in the Bangladesh camp.
(The author is a retired IPS officer and a security analyst who remained posted in Bangladesh. The views expressed are strictly personal)