Despite some glitches, the Hasina visit has been a win-win one for both sides
In spite of some small unresolved issues, Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India can be said to have been an unmitigated success for Bangladesh-India relations.analysis Updated: May 11, 2017 15:19 IST
A visit by a nation’s ruler to another national capital is a success for bilateral relations when there aren’t any hitches during the course of that visit. Nonetheless, the same visit is also dubbed a success, even if there are one or two unresolved riders, which are substantially eclipsed by a myriad successful accomplishments. The Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to New Delhi could be described as the latter. The imbroglio over water sharing between India and Bangladesh from the Teesta River has not been resolved. But, other agreements indicate the potential for bilateral relations to strengthen constructively.
Apart from Indo-Bangladesh bilateral relations, it also staged a minor sideshow in the form of certain strains in Centre-state relations within India. PM, Narendra Modi, and the chief minister of the West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, were not in consensus regarding the pressing issue of the Teesta River water distribution with Bangladesh. Nevertheless, the leaders saw to it that despite some contrarian positions, the silver lining for a solution was not elusive.
Not a trace of acrimony was visible during the entire duration of the Bangladesh PM’s stay. The substance and volume of joint declarations and agreements between India and Bangladesh are substantial. If implemented, it would definitely propel the socio-economic normal of Bangladesh upward and create ingredients to strengthen the symbiotic aspects of relations between the two countries.
While the paramount issues of security, battling terrorism, defence cooperation and stemming cross border infiltration – primarily from Bangladesh to India – have featured clearly in the 22 pronouncements, the issue of particular import has been the strengthening of economic diplomacy with Bangladesh. A massive credit line to the tune of $5 billion has been announced for Bangladesh to enable economic infrastructure development and maintenance – by Indian public and private sectors, of ports, railways, airports, and technological facilities.
By doing so, India has signalled to its eastern neighbour that although it might not yet be able to match the $24 billion that China had promised as aid for Bangladesh in 2016, India, having far greater geographic proximity to and more cultural similarity with Bangladesh, would not hesitate to help Bangladesh with appropriate monetary largesse. Moreover, the amount promised by India is realistic, on better rates of interest than China’s and Indian economic assistance has a credible record of delivery. Till date, India has given Bangladesh a total of $8 billion, of which $3 billion has already been utilised.
At home, PM Hasina could emphasise the net outcome of her India visit and tide over any criticism surrounding the New Delhi visit. Mamata Banerjee’s insistence for beginning the long-due adequate dredging of rivers flowing from India to Bangladesh, to ensure more water flows into that country has some merit. Banerjee is fully supportive of and recognises the need for sharing more water with Bangladesh. But, she is keen to explore other feasible options of water distribution other than the Teesta River’s water – very necessary for northern West Bengal.
With so much positive energy in this bilateral relation, both countries, sooner than later, are bound to hammer out a mutually satisfactory solution as regards this crucial resource of water.
Ranajoy Sen is a commentator on foreign affairs and economics.
The views expressed are personal