The foreign policy of a country is a very deep and subtle subject. If one calls it a policy, it is really sensitive and far reaching. In modern days, foreign policy of a country cannot be a permanent one. The geographic position of a country, its national resources, its surroundings, the characteristics of its people, its economy, advantage or disadvantage determine the foreign policy of a country.
In south Asia Bangladesh is a landlocked country having three sides blocked by India, one side opened to the sea. Its geographic position is such that 54 of its major rivers have got their origin in India. So the water resources of Bangladesh have its origin in the neighboring country i.e., India, the area of which 5 times bigger and 8 times in population.
It is a fact that India is a big resourceful and scientifically advanced country. It has a vast economy with a vast trade. Bangladesh with 17 crores people is a big market for India. But the market of 129 crores people of India is not a free market for Bangladesh. The export-import ratio is 90:10. As the trade gap between the two governments determine their mutual relation, the balance of payment position is in favor of India. So the people and the government of Bangladesh cannot be happy in this unequal trade and it has become inevitable to improve the relation between the two countries by reducing the trade gap as quickly as possible.
We should not forget that economic disparity between East and West of Pakistan was the main reason of developing animosity between the people of these two wings and the reason for separation was exactly that.
If India export BDT 90 and Bangladesh export BDT 10 to India, the relation between the two countries could not be happy. In fact both the countries have felt that steps must be taken pragmatically to reduce the huge trade gap. If economy determines foreign policy then there should have to be a liberal foreign policy between the two countries to minimize the trade gap. Since Bangladesh cannot export qualitatively better goods to India to attract the Indian buyers, India needs to invest in Bangladesh in these areas where from Bangladesh could produce such quality goods that could be exported to Indian market.
Bangladesh as the nearest neighbor of India is in an advantageous position to export to India through land and river routes with less expenditure than to any other countries in south Asia. The only need is a bilateral understanding between the two countries.
Bangladesh got liberated through armed struggle and India as the nearest neighbor helped in all possible ways. So the people of Bangladesh are grateful to India because of what they did for the people of Bangladesh in 1971. This is just unforgettable and so the relation between these two countries is more than usual. The relation between India and Bangladesh is now better than any time before. The prime minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina took several steps to cement this relation and the prime minster of India Mr. Modi duly responded. In reality it is Sheikh Hasina’s regime that India came forward to settle all the unresolved issues between the two countries and excepting Teesta River for which Indian prime minister have given a commitment to resolve it during his present tenure and the result is yet to positive. All other issues are being sympathetically treated by both the countries.
The historical bondages of the two countries have sometimes been deteriorated by petty incidents in the bordering area. The incidents like killing of Bangladeshi citizens in the border sometimes gave a wrong message that the government of India is probably unfriendly to Bangladesh. Both the governments sincerely tried to resolve the crisis and the incidents of killings in the border have really reduced.
The sharing of water by the two counties is a different one in the sense that even if the central government of India wishes to solve the water disputes the Indian state of West Bengal oppose it. So the desire of the central government did not bring any headway.
India- Bangladesh relation is good probably better but not the best one. It is Sheikh Hasina who because of her liberal attitude for India that although there has been a change in governance, there had been no change in relation between the two countries. Rather the relation between the two countries certainly has improved. Many complex issues have been solved bilaterally and amicably. But the commitment made by the India Prime Minister Mr. Modi that Teesta water sharing issue shall be resolved during his present tenure has not been fulfilled. The prime minister of Bangladesh had to face general election on 30th December 2018. It was presumed that Teesta water sharing problem should be addressed before the election. But the reality is otherwise.
As the strongest immediate South Asian neighbors both India and Bangladesh should have close understanding between them. Both the countries should pay attention to solve the outstanding problems. Bangladesh knows it well that unhealthy competition would not bring any benefit for them. Rather genuine meaningful cooperation is needed for the interest of both the countries. The two economies of these two neighbors should be cooperative. There may be some occasional misunderstanding between them but not a serious one. The prudent leadership has got every reason to evaluate appropriately. We should follow the rational one. It is only through cooperation and good relation between the two countries based on the principal of non- interference that peace in south Asia could be maintained satisfactorily. In south Asian context, the relation between the two neighbors is really important to keep south Asia undisturbed and peaceful. History demands us to be fully conscious about it. Correct perception of this reality is the need of the hour.
The writer is the former political adviser to the Prime Minister and Member of Parliament, general secretary of Bangabandhu Parishad and Columnist