Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is coming to New Delhi on an official tour after seven years. Though the interval between her visits to India as the primer of a most trusted neighbouring country is wider, there have been a lot of changes in Delhi’s outlook towards Dhaka in the last seven years.
So, what are those changes?
Speaking to the Bangla Tribune over telephone on Monday night, former external affairs minister of India SM Krishna said: “Bangladesh was then only a friendly neighbour of us. But the country is now our very important partner.”
The veteran politician was serving India as its foreign minister in January 2010, when Hasina paid her last visit to the country.
Krishna said the joint statement issued by the two countries during his period was a milestone in building such an exceptional tie.
He quit the Congress out of his grievances over the party and has recently joined the BJP. Nevertheless, he outspokenly conceded that the relations between Dhaka and Delhi saw the light of day during the Congress tenure.
But, question arises as to why the relations are being described as “new chapter” or as “extraordinary” right before Sheikh Hasina’s visit. Several Indian diplomats including Krishna raised an assortment of points in this regard that are as follows:
1. Did anyone ever think that the 40-year-old Indo-Bangla land boundary dispute would be resolved so easily and a bill over the issue would be passed in the Indian parliament with nobody casting any negative vote? But these all happened without any obstacle.
2. The two countries resolved their maritime boundary dispute through international arbitration without any confrontation.
3. In 2010, Ulfa leader Anup Chetia had been in detention in Bangladesh. A peace talk between the government and secessionists is already in full gear as he was handed over to India. Militant activities in Northeast India could be trimmed down to the lowest level thanks to the Bangladesh government.
4. Load-shedding in Bangladesh turned severe seven years ago. But the situation is now tolerable to a great extent with power being exported to the country from West Bengal’s Bheramara and/or Tripura’s Palatana. And, all the heavy equipment of the Palatana power plant made their way to Bangladesh through Ashuganj River Port, for which India is highly grateful to Bangladesh.
5. A silent revolution has already taken place in the two countries’ connectivity. The people in Tripura could have never thought of directly reaching Kolkata from Agartala via Dhaka. But now this is possible. Also, trucks carrying goods from Dhaka can directly reach India and unload the goods at container terminals in Delhi.
6. The foothold of JMB militants in the Indian territory first came to the fore after an explosion in Khagragarh of Burdwan. Right after the explosion, the Dhaka-Delhi collective efforts got a major breakthrough in countering militancy. The two countries are now working together to prevent them, regardless of their identity being JMB or New JMB or IS.
There are many more things that took place in the past seven years. The diplomats thought that the achievements were significant despite a prevailing tension over the Teesta deal.
Former Indian high commissioner to Dhaka Veena Sikri said: “In a word it can be said that you will not see such examples of bilateral cooperation in any other countries, which India and Bangladesh set in the last seven years.
“This is because Delhi’s attitudes towards Dhaka have completely changed. And, Delhi cordially admits that this is a very special relationship.”
The BNP-led four-party alliance was in power when Veena Sikri was serving as Indian high commissioner in Dhaka. Nothing outstanding happened between the two countries at the time. Therefore, these dramatic changes in the bilateral relations have greatly drawn Veena’s attention.
Veena also described with many more examples how Bangladesh has become a strategic and economic partner of India.
The fact the Delhi has a “solid” attitude towards Hasina’s leadership proved only when Narendra Modi came to power. Many thought that the bilateral ties would melt down owing to the relations Hasina has had with the Congress or the Gandhi family. But this too proved false, and the equations between Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi reached an unprecedented height within a very limited time.