Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni’s visit to India

Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni’s visit to India

In Bangladesh foreign policy, “India factor” looms large. Many bilateral issues are pending for a long time and Bangladesh cannot force India to resolve the issues, some of them are “bread and butter” issues affecting common people.

Both the AL government in Dhaka and the Congress-led government in New Delhi have the unique opportunity to discuss and settle some of the prickly bilateral issues, leading to a range of positive political and economic relations between the two countries. The opportunity must not be missed.

In this context Dr. Dipu Moni’s visit to New Delhi between September 7 and 10 to New Delhi assumed importance.

It is reported that the Bangladesh Foreign Minister’s visit also laid the ground -work for prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s planned visit to the Indian capital later this year.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister besides meeting with her counterpart S.M. Krishna reportedly met Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister (and former External Affairs Minister), Water Resources Minister, Energy Minister,and Railways Minister. These meetings have demonstrated that Bangladesh government is keen to settle a gamut of bilateral issues.

Core Issues between the two countries:

For Bangladesh the issues, namely sea boundary, implementation of land boundary including exchange of hundreds of enclaves, sharing of waters of transboundary rivers, deep concern on the proposed construction of Tipaimukh dam on the Barak River, transit through India to Nepal and Bhutan and reduction of trade deficit, appear to be top priority.

For India, transit or transhipment through road or railway or waterway through Bangladesh, cooperation in terrorism and extradition treaty with Bangladesh seem to be its priority. It is reported India had so far given several proposals including the latest two — Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala direct bus service in 2006.

It is noted that during her visit, the Foreign Minister was able to discuss all bilateral issues with her counterpart and India has agreed to provide at least 100MW to Bangladesh on a priority basis.

The two countries have agreed to expedite negotiations to finalise water sharing of the Teesta river. Both the sides discussed on designating Ashuganj a new port of call under internal water transit and trade agreement as well as use of Chittagong Port by India. India on the other hand reportedly agreed to provide Bangladesh interconnectivity to Nepal and Bhutan.

It seems that Tipaimukh dam issue was not reportedly discussed during the visit and many in Bangladesh were disappointed. However, it could be that the during the Prime Minister’s visit to India, the issue along with others might be raised.

Integrated approach for resolution of bilateral issues::

What India has to bear in mind that maximising short-term advantages in its relations with Bangladesh is counter-productive in the long run. India must understand and appreciate the difficulties in which Bangladesh has been placed by not taking initiative in resolving bilateral issues.

In the past, India sought to negotiate a single issue on a bilateral basis, without appreciating that it was connected with other issues and therefore did not admit an easy solution. In my view this approach must be discarded.

An integrated approach to all bilateral issues is imperative, rather
than addressing issues piecemeal or sector-wise. Furthermore, India needs to view the issues of energy, water resources, transit and global warming through the prism of regional cooperation.

It appears that both Dhaka and New Delhi are keen to develop cooperative relations in various sectors and if India is able to create a suitable environment by resolving prickly bilateral issues, it will be much easier for the Sheikh Hasina government to carry the people in developing a range of political and economic relationship with India.

At the same time, Bangladesh has to live with a reality that the country cannot remain insular from developments in neighbouring countries and Bangladesh, being sandwiched between India and China, must explore the advantages of its strategic position for its benefits. It must act as a bridge between South and South East Asia through economic integration and interconnectivity with multi-modal transport.

Many analysts say opening up borders of Bangladesh is a very important component of globalisation and those who argue that sovereignty will be diminished appears to be on the wrong side of history because Bangladesh was born with so much sacrifices that sovereignty of the country will remain forever.
It is noted that political independence is meaningless if the country cannot progress economically and reduce poverty from people. About 45% per cent of the 150 million people are below poverty line and this cannot be tolerated in a country whose people not only wanted political independence but also economic emancipation.

Both countries need to make the same political, bureaucratic, intellectual, educational, cultural and media efforts to focus on each other’s positive features. Often, some sections in the media in both countries highlight negative images of each other.

Majority of people in neighbouring countries looks at India, the larger and resourceful neighbour with admiration and apprehension. Admiration is felt because the neighbour, having common bonds of history and geography, has been emerging as a global political and economic power. Apprehension emanates from stresses when neighbours are not sure of their position in the new geopolitical environment
Summing up:

India is an emerging power. What India has to do is to adopt a regional policy-approach where all its smaller neighbours are on board for commonality of interests.

Bangladesh , Nepal , Bhutan and the northeastern states of India could be constituted as a sub- economic group of SAARC with open borders and sharing of resources for mutual benefits. The sub-region could be made an engine for economic growth because there are many opportunities to explore and exploit the natural and human resources.

Given the right spirit and the desire to live together in cooperation, there is no reason why the two countries cannot proceed with constructive relations for mutual benefit.

It is India that should come forward to settle the bilateral issues with fairness and justice so that people of Bangladesh may not perceive India as a “big brother” which wants to dominate others.

By Barrister Harun ur Rashid
Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

Place your ads here!

No comments

Write a comment
No Comments Yet! You can be first to comment this post!

Write a Comment