Courting B'desh

Courting B'desh

Starting with external affairs minister SM Krishna’s visit to Dhaka earlier this month,  there is a flurry of events that has put a new spotlight on relations between India and Bangladesh. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi is visiting Bangladesh to receive that country’s highest state award for late Indira Gandhi.

Home minister P Chidambaram is expected to have talks in Dhaka later this week on resolving the problem of enclaves of both countries in each other’s territory. A number of agreements are being worked on between the two countries so that prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit later this year will mark a qualitative upgradation in bilateral relations.

Ever since the Awami League government came to power in Bangladesh, relations between the two countries have steadily improved. But this has often reflected in more promises, sentiments and atmospherics and needs to be followed up with concrete actions. India has done well to give a lot more attention to its eastern neighbour.

There are important strategic, political and economic dimensions to India-Bangladesh relations. Krishna’s visit saw agreements on protection of investments and transport facilities . India was also generous with a $1 billion credit line to Bangladesh during Sheikh Hasina’s visit to the country last year.

The prime minister’s visit is expected to witness some important agreements relating to sharing of water and bilateral trade. India should be generous to Bangladesh while trying to resolve festering and longstanding disputes. India has a high trade balance with Bangladesh. Efforts should be made to increase exports from that country to India.

This may call for relaxation by India of tariff and non-tariff barriers on many Bangladeshi goods. Dhaka has taken seriously India’s interest in transit rights through that country to the North-East. Bangladesh is a backward country but has registered strong economic growth recently. The present increased activity in mutual contacts should be sustained. It is now time to go beyond atmospherics and address the bigger issues of dispute. Diplomacy in the next few weeks should concentrate on this.

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