By: Shantanu Mukharji
New Delhi has welcomed its staunchest friend in the neighborhood, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Most significantly, this is her third visit during the tenure of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Last such visit of Sheikh Hasina was in October 2019. This, in itself shows the importance Bangladesh attaches to its friendship with India. It is also worth mentioning that Prime Minister Modi was a notable dignitary visiting Dhaka in March this year participating in the Mujib Centenary celebrations reinforcing ties between two countries. The centenary celebrations remembered Mujibur Rahman, the father of the nation for Bangladesh.
The current visit by Sheikh Hasina assumes extraordinary importance as both the countries are likely to ink many pacts aimed at resolving issues pending for long.
Among these issues is that of the Teesta river. The Government of West Bengal has to take a call. crucially, both the countries held a meeting of the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) to pave the way for a smooth resolution of such critical issues. Other than this, both the countries are likely to carry forward the aspects of rail and road connectivity designed to further improve the communication network.
Besides, Bangladesh is expected to highlight the issue of Rohingya repatriation to Myanmar as this massive problem has completed five years since the first batch of Rohingyas where pushed into Bangladesh by Myanmar. This remains relevant as of late, India has been holding Bangladesh’s hand on the Rohingyas’ issue and also been trying to prevail upon Myanmar to take back the Rohingyas. Other than this, India remains concerned with the apprehensions of the Bangladesh security establishment that there is a strong possibility of extreme religious indoctrination of a major segment of Rohingya population sheltered in Bangladesh.
As already flagged, the security and intelligence authorities in Bangladesh are wary that if even a miniscule percentage of Rohingyas are religiously brain washed then the ramifications of such frenzied radicalization might have cascading effects even across the long, largely porous borders adjoining India. And, any such spillover might prove disastrous to Indian security interests. Talking about security safeguards, India and Bangladesh, are already believed to have a mechanism in place for cooperation on countering terror and sharing of preventable hard intelligence. This visit might see a more meaningful and detailed discussions on this. In this regard, this must be mentioned that Bangladesh has, by and large been able to control the terror menace and after the July 1, 2016 terror incident in the Holy Artiesan Bakery in Dhaka, there has not been any major case of terror assault in Bangladesh.
However, during the sidelines of the summit in New Delhi, the Indian side, in all probability, will bring to the notice of the intermittent incidents of communal violence in Bangladesh affecting Hindu lives and property and prevailing sense of insecurity among the hapless Hindus. Incidentally, Hindus’ most sacred Durga Pooja celebrations are only weeks away and India is likely to bring to the notice of the Bangladesh for extraordinary preventive measures to protect the Hindus from any attacks of vandalism and Hindu deities and acts of sacrilege.
The Prime Ministers’ summit between the two is also likely to see strengthening of cooperation in security, infrastructure and energy sectors at an extraordinary scale. Notably, this important summit will enable both the countries to review the progress made by India and Bangladesh in various areas of collaboration of critical importance. Some knowledgeable watchers of India and Bangladesh assess Hasina’s visit will provide an opportunity to take their ties beyond their regional canvas to an Asia Pacific landscape. There is also a strong possibility of extensive discussions evolving around the Indo Pacific Economic Framework. By the time this piece hits the press, their might be inclusion of more agenda points marking a milestone move forward for a more concrete bilateral partnership between the two.
Whatever the agenda points to be discussed between the two countries, one thing looks certain that Hasina visit will bring India and Bangladesh more-closer and narrowing their differences, if any. Perhaps, this is the best kind of Indo-Bangladesh relationship ever which the world is witnessing and the summit will give an opportunity to both the countries to take care of each other’s problems and stand rock solid against all adversities. This Hasina visit will also be a signal to countries like Pakistan, Turkey and China that no matter what, both India and Bangladesh are steadfastly committed to each other and will remain so in years to come. Significantly again, Bangladesh has its general elections, in 2023 and India is poised to hold its elections, a year later in 2024. It, therefore, assumes more significance than on Hasina’s previous visits. The outcome of the visit merits a revisit to the warmth both the countries enjoy brining further thaw to their existing bonhomie. Last, but not the least, India has proved its’ friendship by standing beside Bangladesh during Covid crisis by rushing considerable vaccine stock to Dhaka and Hasina not so long-ago acknowledged India’s contribution in the Bangladesh liberation struggle of 1970-71. Do they say more to prove their friendship?
(Disclaimer: The views of the writer do not represent the views of The Global Kashmir Nor does The Global Kashmir endorse the views of the writer.)-WION