With Prime Minister Narendra Modi set to sign a land boundary agreement with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina and also set to announce a number of sops soon after his arrival in Dhaka on Saturday, India said a positive outlook and a dramatically changed political atmosphere was a lesson for other neighbours as well. Amidst growing bonhomie, last year India having already accepted the UN Tribunal awaring 19,467 sq kms of 25,602 sq tk sea area of Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh will be the only country having settled land and maritime boundaries with India West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
Briefing media ahead of the high-profile visit, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar described it historic, but without referring to Pakistan, reminded other neighbours that with a positive bent of mind, countries can do wonders in relationships, saying India and Bangladesh have discovered enormous among of cooperation in terms of sharing power, movement of people, business and even setting an economic zone for Indian companies. Experts say, in return to addressing India’s security concerns over past many years, since the Awami League government led by Sheikh Hasina assumed office, India didn’t appeal against the UN Tribunal verdict awarding maritime territory to Dhaka and also fast-tracked ratification of land boundary dispute pending for over 30-years. Bangladesh,shares border with five Indian states.
Accompanied by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Modi and Sheikh Hasina will also flag off ceremony of Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala and the Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati bus service. The two countries are also keen to strengthen railway connectivity, particularly to revive railway links which were in existence prior to 1965. Both prime ministers will also sign a coastal shipping agreement to facilitate sailing of small vessels from India to various ports in Bangladesh which now go through Singapore. India will also push for involvement of Indian companies in setting up of ports in that country.
Foreign Secretary said the issue of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal Motor Vehicle Agreement is also likely to figure in the talks. The agreement, minus Pakistan and Afghanistan , is likely to be signed soon. India feels improving connectivity with Bangladesh will help linking the Northeastern region with Southeast Asia.
Modi will also interact with Bangladesh civil society, which will give him an opportunity to talk to Bangladeshi public directly, a trademark of his foreign visits. He is also scheduled to visit the Dhakeswari National Temple, the Ramkrishna Mission, the National Memorial for 1971 martyrs and the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum, call on President Abdul Hamid and attend a state banquet. Asked what made India to lay an extra emphasis on ties with Dhaka, he said besides having borders with five Indian states, Bangladesh is a littoral country of Bay of Bengal and it serves as the crossroads for the South Asia and Southeast Asia.
Bangladesh shares border with India’s five states — “How we develop our ties with Bangladesh has an impact on the welfare and the security of not just of Bangladesh but also of our North-East…These are the elements which make up the strategic importance of Bangladesh to India,” he said. “The destinies of both our countries are very closely interlinked… and we do not see our relations in the eyes of others,” he added.