Published:  03:03 AM, 14 January 2021

Bangladesh-India relations in 21st century

Bangladesh and India share civilization, history, heritage, and culture of five thousand years.  The identity of our region was being developed since king Shashangka 1400 years ago. The nation-state Bangladesh had been established in 1971.   As Bangladesh approaches its 50th year and observes the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and Bangladesh-India celebrate 50 years of their friendship, the virtual summit between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Prime Minister Narendra Modi bears special significance. Many of the commitments made anticipate further strengthening of this close friendship.

PM Sheikh Hasina said India is a true friend of Bangladesh and expressed her gratitude to the country and the Indian Army for their support during the 1971 Liberation War.Stating that Bangladesh is a significant pillar of India's "Neighbourhood First" policy, Modi said pharmaceutical companies on both sides have already arranged plans for the supply of vaccines. The prospect of cooperation in production will also be explored, he added.India promised to promptly and effectively deliver to Bangladesh the Covid-19 vaccines it is producing as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi held the virtual summit.

The two PMs also expressed their interest in expanding the already-strong bilateral and regional economic cooperation by improving connectivity while resolving existing issues, including water sharing and management and bringing down border killings to zero. BGB and BSF meetings have been held in Guwahati recently they have agreed on some measures including joint patrol of the two forces.The Bangladesh government and a local pharmaceutical company have signed an agreement with the Serum Institute of India for Covid-19 vaccines.

"Whenever vaccine is produced, India will give us three crore vaccines," said Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen at a press conference at State Guesthouse Padma after the PM-level summit, The vaccines will be purchased at a "friendship price", he also said. Health minister Zahid Malek mentioned that Bangladesh will get the vaccine within a short time.

In a separate press conference, Indian High Commissioner Vikram Doraiswami said India is working quietly and strategically on best practices, supply chain, and management of the vaccine not only with Bangladesh but also with Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives, and Mauritius. He also mentioned on diffident occasions that India has the commitment to supply in due time. "We will be very willing if the Bangladesh side wants us to help improve facilities and also facilitate co-production here," he said.

Under this agreement, Bangladesh will get three crores vaccines and serum institutes will send 50 lacs in last week of January.   The summit was held at a historical time as the countries are in their 50th year of diplomatic relationships. Bangladesh is also celebrating the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and preparing to celebrate its 50th independence anniversary in 2021.

We achieved victory on 16 December 1971.  Bangabandhu had come back to Bangladesh on 10, January 1972 via Delhi. Later on, Bangabandhu visited Kolkata from 6 to 8 February in1972. The speeches delivered by Bangabandhu and Indira Gandi are very important to understand the direction that is based on principle. Let us describe it below.

Bangabandhu expressed his gratitude to India in Delhi, he addresses lacs of people in Dhaka and said Bangladesh would the ideal country. He gave directions to the people for reconstruction, peace and progress.    Bangabandhu in Kolkata at that largest public gathering in the history of India announced that the Indo-Bangladesh friendship would remain intact forever.

Bangabandhu said that the sufferings that Bangladesh people had to undergo for independence had no parallel in world history and none had the power to undo the hard-earned independence. He said, "My Bengal is Titumir's Bengal, my Bengal is Surya Sen's Bengal, my Bengal is Subhash Bose's Bengal, Fazlul Haque's Bengal, Suhrawardy's Bengal."

Referring to the soil quality of Bengal, he said that his people were just like this soil - they were cool and peaceful but in need, they were like solid steel.In her speech, Mrs. Gandhi said that the friendship between India and Bangladesh was based on a strong and solid foundation and hoped that it would grow stronger and stronger day by day.

The policy followed by India in regard to Bangladesh had been adequately justified by its actions during the Liberation War. By helping Bangladesh, India had shown to the world that India always stood for justice and human values. She said that Bangladesh achieved its political independence; it would have to fight for economic freedom. She also said, "We have a firm belief that the people of Bangladesh will prosper day by day and they have a great future."

Bangabandhu said that Mrs. Gandhi and he believed in the principles of secularism, nationalism, democracy and socialism. He said that those four principles were the pillars of Bangladesh. Addressing Pakistani leaders, Bangabandhu said that mental asylum was the only place that suited those who could still claim Bangladesh as a part of Pakistan.Expressing his deep respect to Mrs. Gandhi for supporting our liberation struggle, Bangabandhu said, "I have no doubt in my mind that India, our next door neighbour, will proudly march on as the largest democracy of the world under the dynamic leadership of Mrs Gandhi.

We, on our part, are striving to advance the common ideals of nationalism, democracy, secularism and socialism at home and non-alignment in international relations." Both the countries are upholding these basic principles. They are cooperating in all fields including security. It may be mentioned Bangladesh will participate in India's Republic Day Parade in New Delhi in January 26.

After five decades, Bangladesh achieved outstanding success in economy and other sectors. World Economic Forum reported that Bangladesh would be the 24th largest economy based on GDP in 2030 and one of the 20 large economies in the world in 2050. India already is the third largest economy based on PPP GDP and will occupy the same position in nominal GDP also in 2028, it is reported by UK based CEBR organization. There is a prediction that India will occupy the first position in the world economy in 2050 due to democracy, innovation, and work forces.   

At this important juncture of their relations, the most important element is trust and sincerity. Bangladesh-India must move under greater understanding for peace and prosperity. Bangladesh, in its endeavour to develop and progress, will continue to reach out to other countries as it has to Japan, the US, the European countries and other democratic countries.

We hope that the relations between the two countries will move in a significant way to more meaningful height of mutual cooperation by removing all the stumbling blocks that keep coming in the way. The two leaders also underscored the need for early conclusion of Framework of interim agreement on sharing of waters of six joint rivers such as Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.

According to the joint statement issued by both governments, the distinguish two leaders recalled the positive contribution of the Joint Rivers Commission and looked forward to the next round of secretarial level meeting at the earliest. Already one meeting has been held and another one will be in short time. We hope that the water sharing of Teesta River will be completed in a process.

Recognizing the potential of bilateral economic and commercial ties, both prime ministers directed the officials to expeditiously conclude the ongoing joint study on the prospects of entering into a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). It may be mentioned  that agriculture, industry, education, health and etc. It may be mention that co operations are being enhanced in all sectors including power, agriculture and industries.   

Welcoming the first meeting of the India-Bangladesh Textile Industry Forum, the leaders laid emphasis on the importance of increased linkages and collaborations in the textile sector and directed the officials to conclude the ongoing negotiations on the MoU between the textiles ministries of two nations.Both leaders agreed to expeditiously operationalise transshipment of Indian goods through Chattogram and Mongla ports. By this time, trials had been done.

To facilitate better connectivity and simplify movement of passengers and goods between both the countries, both leaders agreed to fast-track operationalisation of the BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement through expeditious signing of the enabling MoU for Bangladesh, India and Nepal to start the movement of goods and passengers, with the provision for Bhutan to join at a later date.

Bangladesh Prime Minister expressed her interest in the ongoing India Myanmar Thailand trilateral highway project and sought support of India for enabling Bangladesh to connect with this project with a view to enhancing connectivity between the regions of South and Southeast Asia.On the other hand, the Indian side requested Dhaka to allow connectivity from the West Bengal (Hilli) to Meghalaya (Mahendraganj) via Bangladesh.

To expedite implementation of Indian LoC projects, both the leaders stressed active operationalisation of the recently-constituted high-level monitoring committee headed by Economic Relations Division secretary and the Indian high commissioner to regularly review the progress of the LoC schemes for their early completion.At the summit, Hasina and Modi emphasized simplifying people to people movement between the two countries.

We know due to simplification of visa processing and increasing connectivity nearly 15 lacs people moved from Bangladesh to India and at the same time 5 lacs people came from India to Bangladesh in the year 2019.On this occasion, seven bilateral documents were signed and exchanged by the officials of the governments of India and Bangladesh.We hope that comprehensive partnership will be reached to the height in the 21th century that was expected at the time of victory of Bangladesh liberation war.

The writer is an academic, former ambassador, leader-student action committee 71 and freedom fighter.

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