PM Sheikh Hasina in India: India must be a friend in deeds

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in Delhi for a four-day visit, hopes to return with a bag full of crucial deals that could stand him in good stead in the country’s upcoming elections towards the end of 2023. Last month, when Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abdul Momen said at a public rally that India must ensure that Prime Minister Hasina remains in the interest of regional stability, the statement sent blushes to both sides and the minister did not find a place in Hasina’s delegation to Delhi. It is no secret that India would be more than delighted if Prime Minister Hasina wins a fourth consecutive term. Relations between India and Bangladesh saw their best phase under his tenure as Prime Minister from 2009. His tough stance against Islamist militancy and terrorism, and his government’s denial of safe havens for anti- Indians have laid a solid foundation for cooperation. Of course, the relationship was not without problems. Assam’s National Citizens Registry and Nationwide Citizenship (Amendment) Act have raised concerns in Dhaka. While it was up to diplomacy to limit the damage – India’s anti-Covid diplomacy provided a healing touch – it was largely Prime Minister Hasina’s political maturity, her shrewd understanding of the dynamics regional and his ability to see the big picture that saw the smoothing out of the bad patch. When anti-Hindu riots broke out during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pre-election visit to West Bengal in 2021, Delhi’s appreciation of the tough action against those who had instigated the riots stood in stark contrast to its reactions episodes of anti-minority violence in Pakistan. .

Prime Minister Hasina has also calibrated the India-China balance tactfully. Last week Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Dhaka. China describes itself as Bangladesh’s “most reliable long-term strategic partner”, but the country’s foreign minister told the Financial Times days later that Sri Lanka was a cautionary tale about taking loans to Beijing. No doubt Hasina’s visit will provide Delhi with an opportunity to better assess the Dhaka-Beijing relationship. But India and Bangladesh can say they have the best cross-border land connectivity links in the South Asian region, with more projects in the pipeline. The countries are joined by two bus services and three train services. Except for one, all pre-Partition rail links between small stations have been restored. Bangladesh wants to join the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway. Waterway agreements have facilitated trade in inland waters, making it easier for India to transport goods through the port of Chittagong to the northeast, while Bangladesh’s trade with third countries , such as Bhutan and Nepal, can be routed through Indian ports. The two countries also have significant energy cooperation – all of the output from a 1,600 megawatt thermal power station built for the purpose by the Adani Group in Jharkhand is supplied to Bangladesh, which buys it under an agreement of 2016.

The two parties could sign a comprehensive economic partnership agreement during this visit. But what the Prime Minister of Bangladesh really wants is a deal to share water from the Teesta River, stalled for more than 10 years, largely due to opposition from the Chief Minister of West Bengal. , Mamata Banerjee. Supporters and opponents of Prime Minister Hasina at home will follow the visit to see if it meets this very important demand.

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