Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2011: Bangladesh ties

Bangladesh ties

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent visit to Bangladesh deserves a special mention as he was accompanied by a delegation that included the Chief Ministers of four bordering Indian states Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram. This has endorsed the significance these States have in the context of growing relations between Dhaka and New Delhi.

The visit was a historic opportunity to open doors, mend fences, and reach out to each other realising the genuine needs of either side.

The two countries signed 10 agreements, protocols and memorandums of understanding (MoU). Both countries felt the need to address pending issues quickly, resolving the political will which they had achieved when Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited India in January 2010.

The presence of the Chief Ministers Tarun Gogoi of Assam, Manik Sarkar of Tripura, Mukul Sangma of Meghalaya and Lal Thanhawla of Mizoram gave the visit a new dimension, as it had direct ramifications for much desired trade and connectivity that India needs to connect its landlocked States some 2, 62, 230 sq. Km. And about five crore people through Bangladesh.

For the northeast, access to Bangladesh's Chittagong port, 75 km from Tripura, and gateway, was of importance. This has also a direct bearing on India's much talked about Look East policy.

During their interactions with government, business and civil society leaders, the Chief Ministers sought increased trade, investment and connectivity. They offered joint venture industrial projects and promotion of tourism.

The geographical proximity between Bangladesh and the northeast should be beneficial to both e. g. Tripura could supply 100 MW to power starved Bangladesh if an accord was negotiated with India.

All the Chief Ministers laid stress on improving Bangladesh's relations with the Seven Sisters in all sectors and proposed an increase of land ports. They also wanted cooperation in health, education and environment.

They praised the resolve of the Sheikh Hasina government to act against separatists and insurgents.

For the Hasina government, postponement of the Teesta water sharing accord came as an embarrassment. Maybe, more so for India. The Bangladesh media said it was a big let down for Bangladesh.

Another question addressed was the long standing border issue including 6.5 km of undemarcated land boundary in three sectors Daikhata 56 (West Bengal), Muhuri River Belonia (Tripura) and Dumabari (Assam) and land of adverse possessions which were a source of conflict. The status of 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladesh enclaves in India was addressed.

These deals will not only end border skirmishes but also help improve trade with Bangladesh across West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. The residents of Bangladesh's Dahagram and Angarpota enclaves have already started enjoying their right to round the clock movement through the Teen Bigha corridor.

Experts are of the view that increased trade and investment will not only benefit the northeast but also help Bangladesh's economy grow faster, creating jobs and higher income which will eventually deter illegal migrants, a concern India has repeatedly raised. Higher income in Bangladesh will also foster political and social stability, and likely subdue all forms of potential extremism.

India and Bangladesh signed a framework agreement on bilateral cooperation, in which a commitment has been made for cooperation in trade, connectivity and water resources. They also adopted a 65 point joint declaration reaffirming their positions against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and reiterating the assurance that their territories would not be allowed for any inimical activity.

The building of a durable Bangladesh

India relationship cannot be judged by one trip. The political leadership will have to show prudence to overcome the challenges that may bedevil the relations in the future by taking quick and appropriate measures. Geography and history are for India and Bangladesh to be together.

Courtesy: The Hindu and Times of India