India’s best regional partnership | HT Editorial
There were several takeaways from the meeting in New Delhi between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina. A set of decisions on connectivity and energy trade will prove beneficial for India’s North-eastern states. These include the bulk import of LPG, supply of drinking water from Bangladesh for the northeast, and finalisation of procedures for using two ports to move goods to the region. The agreement on creating a coastal surveillance radar system for Bangladesh will bolster defence and security cooperation, and help India prevent potential terror attacks from the sea.
It is easy to understand why Mr Modi spoke to Ms Hasina about bilateral ties currently passing through a “shonali adhyay (golden chapter)”. With the Bangladesh economy growing at a rate of 8% annually, and the government engaged in a massive drive to build infrastructure, Ms Hasina plugged her country as the ideal investment destination for Indian businesses. The conditions, therefore, are ideal for closer integration of the two economies.
However, the issue of India’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) and India’s inability to conclude an agreement for sharing the waters of the Teesta river emerged as discordant notes in the otherwise positive atmosphere. While New Delhi still has difficult domestic political issues to negotiate on the Teesta issue, it should do more to address Dhaka’s concerns over comments by some Indian leaders that those left out of NRC in Assam will be deported. Remarks by Bangladeshi officials make it clear these concerns have remained, despite assurances by Mr Modi. Anything that causes strain on what is currently India’s best partnership in the South Asian region should be swiftly nipped in the bud.