Despite long-standing disputes with Bangladesh, New Delhi is making favorable gestures towards its smaller neighbor in a bid to mend fences.
India and Bangladesh open transit doors to peace and stability.
Forty years after the emergence of Bangladesh as a sovereign state on the global map, there are some serious questions and doubts about its capability to resist pressures from its bigger neighbor India which surrounds it from three sides and shares a border stretching over 4,096 kilometers, Bangladeshi governments whether belonging to Awami League, Army or the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), continue to face the daunting task of dealing with the asymmetrical nature of their relations with New Delhi.
Following back to back visits of Indian officials to Dhaka in the last year, the climax in Indo-Bangladesh relations will occur when the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits Bangladesh in early September. Furthermore, on July 25, Sonia Gandhi paid her first visit to Dhaka to receive the award for her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi, for the latter’s contributions to the freedom struggle in 1971. Commenting on the visit, Ravni Thakur, Joint Secretary in the Foreign Affairs Department of Congress said, “India has a special relationship with Bangladesh and in particular Gandhi family was very close to late Sheikh Mujibur Rehman as also Sheikh Hasina Wajed. Ms. Gandhi is going there not only as Congress president but also in the capacity of UPA Chairperson. This is a very welcome move.”
It is worth mentioning here that on January 12, 2010, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was conferred the prestigious Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2009. Awami League, which from any standard has a soft corner for India since the beginning is, however, confronted with a major challenge of responding to critics who question pursuing pro-Indian policy regardless of contentious issues between the two neighbors. If BNP is not warm vis-àvis India because of what some circles call as the dominating, aggressive and exploitive interests of New Delhi, Awami League is all the way in favor of forging close relations with its huge neighbor.
Regardless of the Indian and Pakistani factor in Bangladeshi politics in recent years, New Delhi has managed to make significant inroads in economic, political and security areas of Bangladesh. It is not only the visits of high profile Indian leaders to Bangladesh but the depth of Indo-Bangladesh relations which has changed the perceptions of even those Bangla- deshis who harbored ill-will and suspicion about New Delhi’s role in their country. In view of India’s booming economy and its growing clout in the region and outside; its generous aid and assistance to Bangladesh in key sectors of infrastructure, one can observe the surge of “positive image” of India in Bangladesh. The weakening of Pakistani state and society in terms of serious economic crisis, political instability and terrorism provided India substantial space to broaden its con-
India and Bangladesh – on road to progress.