By Dr Arpita Hazarika
India continues to place a high priority on its friendship with Bangladesh in a variety of ways, and Bangladesh is given priority under the nation’s “neighbourhood first” policy. The connection between the two nations is greater than it has ever been, and both nations are in an exceptional situation right now.
Both nations develop as neighbours and emerge from several conflicts and difficulties. Their relationship is not only historical but also important now. Prior to prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in September 2022, an invitation by her counterpart prime minister Narendra Modi, there are plans to further engagement on the golden anniversary of the beginning of diplomatic relations between the two nations.
There is only one perspective through which India-Bangladesh ties should be viewed: as a crucial component for the reciprocal development of both countries. The Indian president Ram Nath Kovind’s State visit to Bangladesh last year to attend the 50th Victory Day festivities as the guest of honour was one of many high-level interactions the two countries held over the course of the previous year.
In March of last year, Indian prime minister Modi traveled to Bangladesh for the first time. It has been determined that both of the visits are significant historically.
Bangladesh has so far maintained its foreign policy of “friendliness to all, enmity to none,” without harming its dependable allies, while successfully interacting with the world’s most powerful nations to enhance its economic capabilities and contribute more to world peace. Bangladesh is likely to avoid harm despite the tumultuous politics and trade throughout the world because of the nation’s careful leadership and practical strategies. Since 1996, when Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League came into power, relations between Bangladesh and India have improved.
It is simple to understand why India is Bangladesh’s most obvious ally. The country’s diplomatic, political, and military support for Bangladesh’s independence ensured that it will always hold a special place in the hearts of its citizens and in the good graces of our foreign policy.
As the two governments work to strengthen their relationship even further, they should take advantage of their shared historical background to address some of the issues that have damaged India’s reputation in the eyes of the Bangladeshi people, who believe that the two nations have not historically interacted as equal partners.
But many controversial issues between the two nations were resolved, including border demarcation, enclave exchanging, cross-border comunicación connectivity, opening of more border points for trade and the sharing of river water such as Ganges River water sharing treaty in 1996. However, there are still certain concerns, such as how to share the water from the Teesta River, that need to be resolved. Cross-border trade was prompted by the transit, transhipment, and connectivity agreements that the two nations signed. They have also eliminated cross-border insurgency issues by removing insurgent camps from either country’s territory.
Several thousand Indian soldiers died during the Bangladesh Liberation War while fighting alongside Bangladesh Mukti Joddas against Pakistani forces. All of the Indian and Bangladeshi martyrs who lost their lives in the conflict are honoured by Bangladesh. After the war, the Soviet Union dispatched a salvage team to empty the Chittagong port channel of sunken ships in order to reopen the port.
During the last 12-years, under the leadership of Bangladesh’s Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s daughter prime minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh’s government has taken bold steps toward strengthening its relations with India in depth and dimensions.
India-Bangladesh’s shared history, geography, culture and values, and shared commitment to peace, security and development have given us unique confidence to forge partnership not only on the bilateral front but on a wide range of issues. They have attained tangible results in many areas, such as settling land and maritime boundary demarcation, security, connectivity, development cooperation, cultural exchange, power and energy, trade and commerce, blue economy, defence and so on.
The president and prime minister of India visited Bangladesh to join Bangladesh’s various programmes to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Bangladesh’s Independence, the birth centenary of the father of the nation of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and India.
Year 2021 has created a fresh momentum and enthusiasm in their bilateral relationship which needs to be carried forward through continuous dialogues and deliberations. The foreign minister of Bangladesh visited New Delhi to attend the 7th Joint Consultative Commission (JCC), co-chaired by foreign minister of Bangladesh and India, held on 19 June 2022, where both the foreign ministers touched upon all the major areas of our bilateral relationship. Bangladesh has renewed its commitment for early resolution of various outstanding issues. it is preparing for the visit of prime minister of Bangladesh to India in September this year.
Bangladesh prime minister has a vision for transforming the country into a connectivity hub in South Asia and to foster economic cooperation and people to people contact in the region.
Bangladesh has recently inaugurated its dreamy project ‘Padma bridge’. The Padma Bridge is expected to benefit West Bengal and the North-Eastern States of India in terms of both connectivity and trade. Once all the links are completed, the train journey between Kolkata and Dhaka will be shortened by two hours. It would certainly save their time and resources and eventually, it would increase India-Bangladesh productivity.
The positive aspects of the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and India which is passing through ‘Sonali Adhyay’ (Golden chapter of the bilateral relations). There are many aspects and issues which the two countries can project as good neighbourhood diplomacy, which can be claimed as a ‘Role Model of Bilateral Relations’.
Joint efforts can play a vital role in solidifying their relations which may be seen as – not only good for the countries – but also vital for the peace and prosperity of the entire region. India -Bangladesh businessmen must work together for ensuring mutual benefits and making the region more prosperous as the two neighbouring countries are enjoying the best relations.
Like usual, important bilateral issues like the water sharing dilemma are on the table, but the public wants to see actual solutions, not just discussions, for these issues. And 2022 year may and should be the ideal chance to significantly advance on some of these concerns. We hope that this alliance continues to benefit both countries.
Dr Arpita Hazarika is a Gauhati University, Assam, India-based researcher, interested in refugee affairs, political economy, security and strategic affairs, and foreign policies of the Asia-Pacific region.