PM Sheikh Hasina’s recent visit to India and aftermath

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s New Delhi visit following the general election in both the countries has taken place at a time when the two countries have been trying to resolve some pending issues including sharing of water of some common rivers like Teesta. The issue of NRC is also a concern for Bangladesh. In the meeting the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have signed a number of agreements. The meeting reached the agreement to operationalise the Dhulian-Gadagari-Rajshahi-Daulatdia-Aricha Route (to and fro) and include Daudkandi-Sonamura Route (to and fro) under Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade.” It agreed to “exchange updated data and information and prepare the draft framework on Interim Sharing Agreements for the six rivers, namely Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla, and Dudkumar, and to firm up the draft framework of the interim sharing agreement of Feni River.” In the meeting, the Indian prime minister assured his Bangladeshi counterpart that “his government is working with all stakeholders in India for conclusion of the Agreement (sharing of Teesta River) as soon as possible.” Bangladesh agreed at the meeting to allow India to withdraw 1.82 cusec water from the Feni River purely for irrigation purpose.

It’s clear that some of these agreements would provide privilege to both the countries. The issue of seven other rivers in respect of sharing water by both the countries has been taken up after six years. According to water expert Dr Aynul Nishat since the water sharing issue is an important one and India is willing to revive the JRC. This is certainly a positive development. Mr Modi assured Dhaka that the Teesta issue would be solved during his last tenure. Mamata Banjerjee stood on the way of raising objection, keeping the issue still unsettled. It is not difficult to understand that the federal government of India could not act ignoring the state government of Mamata. It is learnt that this time Mamata has changed her mind and she would not create any hindrance to the central government’s initiative to settle Teesta issue. We all expect that to happen and Modi government would implement its commitment on Teesta in the interest of improving the relation between the two countries further. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expects to see the two countries closer. Historical bondage established through the war of liberation has to stay.  India under the leadership of Indira Gandhi contributed much to the creation of Bangladesh and the people of Bangladesh do really remember it. There has been a change of government in India, but the relationship between the two countries has not altered. Rather it has enhanced further. Indian leadership feels that the relation between India and Bangladesh is now stronger than any time before. The need of the hour is to explore new areas of cooperation. Both countries have to come forward.

The way some important members of the ruling party has been talking on Assam and even in UP is a matter of concern for Bangladesh.  But Modi has assured Sheikh Hasina not to be worried about it. He said it’s an internal issue of India and to be solved internally. The Foreign Secretary of India has earlier told his Bangladesh counterpart that it’s an internal issue of India. But the way some ruling party stalwarts have been talking is really undesirable. 

It would not be fair to say that Sheikh Hasina has failed to protect the interest of Bangladesh during her recent visit to India. Withdrawal of 1.82 cusec water for irrigation purpose is really a humanitarian issue. Sheikh Hasina has taken it that way. Bangladesh really evaluates its relation with India based on the principal of peace and friendship. Both India and Bangladesh should share each other’s problems. Bangladesh has done it. 

The government of both the countries has changed. It is an advantage that both the leader Sheikh Hasina and Modi have been reelected. The two leaders know each other. Since they worked in their respective country as head of the government, it would certainly be helpful for them to work in the new areas of cooperation in future.  It is fact that the visit of Sheikh Hasina to New Delhi has accused just after Modi’s coming back to power with overwhelming majority.

The standing issue like Teesta and others need solution. The newly elected leader would try to solve all outstanding problems and go ahead with better way of cooperation. One of the big problems is terrorism. Both the countries commit to fight it out from South Asia. A meaningful cooperation is therefore needed. It is necessary for the sake of peace in the zone that the Rohingya issue has to be settled. This is a serious problem not only for Bangladesh, but also for South Asia including India and China.

Bangladesh wants good relations with India, China and Myanmar. The idea is to establish peace in the zone so that all countries could advance forward to change the fate of their people. 

Despite a lot of cooperation,  Bangladesh feel that bilateral negotiation is the best way to solve the problems. Since Myanmar has created the problem and since it is their internal issue, the prime responsibility lies with the government of Myanmar to solve the Rohingya crisis.

Bangladesh under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina is developing rapidly to achieve its goal. So it is needed for itself and also for other countries of South Asia. India being the closest neighbour, is relation with Bangladesh is certainly important. Bangladesh would continue its friendly relation with India. Bangladesh expects India to reciprocate equally. Modi who is a prudent politician and has come with overwhelming support from the people knows how to deal with Bangladesh. This is the high time for the leaders of both the countries to ponder how to improve the relations further.  

The writer is former political adviser to the Prime Minister, Member of Parliament, Secretary General of Bangabandhu Parishad and columnist