Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Modi’s talks with Hasina crucial for India-Bangladesh ties

New Delhi: The relations between India and Bangladesh have been founded firmly in history. Exact fifty years ago, India under the leadership of Indira Gandhi made a bold strategic intervention to liberate what was till then East Pakistan. About 3,900 Indian soldiers died in war with Pakistani forces in the process of liberation of Bangladesh. More than a crore of refugees took shelter in India. The struggle for creation of Bangladesh on 26 March 1971 was spearheaded by Sheik Mujibur Rahman who became the first prime minister of the independent nation.

About 90,000 Pakistani soldiers commanded by General Niazi surrendered to General Jagjit Singh Arora signalling the end of resistance.

Banga bandhu Mujibur Rahman was assassinated on 15 August 1975 and the fledgling country was thrown into chaos following military rule with General Ziaur Rahman as President. After six years Gen. Ziaur was also assassinated in a military coup in 1981. H.M. Ershad took over in 1982 and ruled as head of a military government till 1991 when Bangladesh came back to parliamentary democracy.

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India’s relations with Bangladesh have been chequered. The nagging border dispute was resolved in 2015 peacefully. The refugees were asked to choose their country and citizenship was granted accordingly. Bangladesh has been making economic progress under democratic governments putting behind the uncertainty of military rule. It is one of the fastest growing economies in the world today.

Bus and rail services have been established over the decades improving connectivity between the two friendly neighbours. Shipments from Chittagong to Indian destinationd are being allowed by Bangladesh which is India’s biggest trading partner in South Asia. In 2018-19, India exported goods and services worth of $9.21 billions and imported $ 1.04 billion worth of goods, heavily tilted in India’s favour. However, the projects in Bangladesh at India’s behest have been progressing at a snail’s pace due to lack of serious perusal.

There are, no doubt, some problems bothering both India and Bangladesh. The Teesta river water dispute is one such. Indian border security forces have been killing the unarmed cattle traders from Bangladesh for trespassing into Indian territory. The killings were most in 2020. Jaishankar, India’s external affairs, in his recent visit to Dhaka had made an insensitive statement regarding the border killings that sounded arrogant. May be he was asked to take a stern line in the border question in view of the assembly elections in West Bengal to be in tune with BJP’s campaign theme. India cannot afford to be high-handed particularly in view of China’s overreach to befriend neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in Dhaka on Friday, enjoys good rapport with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, daughter of the martyred Banga bandhu whose birth centenary celebrations have begun. The future relations between the two countries depend on the quality of bilateral talks.

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