De­spite long-stand­ing dis­putes with Bangladesh, New Delhi is mak­ing fa­vor­able ges­tures to­wards its smaller neigh­bor in a bid to mend fences.

Southasia - - Front page - By Dr. Moo­nis Ah­mar

Emerg­ing Courtship

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.

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