Indo-Bangla summit a 'bold shift' in bilateral relations: Experts

Indo-Bangla summit a 'bold shift' in bilateral relations: Experts

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (R) gestures as he welcomes Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during signing of agreements ceremony in New Delhi on January 11, 2010. AFP

Former diplomat Farook Sobhan said if Bangladesh wanted to accelerate its growth between eight and nine per cent and achieve the status of a middle-income country, "there is no other way but to build regional and sub-regional economic cooperation."
International relations professor Shahiduzzaman of Dhaka University said the prime minister's India visit shifted the paradigm of Indo-Bangla relations and "the visit proves that Bangladesh's foreign policy has become dynamic."

 Former diplomat Harun-ur Rashid said Hasina's India visit was expected to have removed the confusion over Bangladesh's relation with India. They were speaking at the Daily Star held roundtable on "Bangladesh-India Summit 2010."

The roundtable coincided with Hasina’s press briefing on her last week’s three-day India tour when she answered the opposition allegations of "selling out country’s interests" and defended the deals saying those paved ways for enhanced bilateral and regional cooperation to fight "poverty, our common enemy."

"India is an economic power and we need to follow the tail end. It (deals) is a courageous step," said Bangladeshi born secretary-general of Amnesty International, Irene Khan.

Former state minister for foreign affairs and main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Khaleda Zia’s adviser Reaz Rahmanm however, described the outcome of the summit as "very disappointing."

"Look at the Indian gains. There are too many gifts for India. The balance of the game was seriously skewed," he said, terming the move to open up Bangladesh’s southeastern Chittagong and southwestern Mongla ports to India "mega concessions".
He said Bangladesh made four "mega concessions" in bilateral security, connectivity, economic cooperation and "psychological game" and the "concessions will have far-reaching implications" while "in my opinion the Awami League has seriously endangered our nation".

Rahman was supplemented by president of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) Anisuddowla saying Bangladesh lost its bargaining chip after offering India the seaport facility without "studying the implications."

 But Sobhan said greater cooperation with India, Bhutan and Nepal would open up the opportunities while India made a major concession in giving Bhutan and Nepal transit to Bangladesh.

Hasina on  late Saturday criticised her archrival Zia’s BNP for what it alleged that she had "compromised the national interest" during her maiden New Delhi visit saying "I have succeeded in my mission as Bangladesh’s interests have been protected cent percent."

She called a major success of her trip in obtaining Indian nod in allowing its territory for Bangladesh’s road links with Nepal and Bhutan which, she said, ensured a regional connectivity "while India is said to be interested only in bilateral arrangements on all issues."

"Opposing India is nothing new in Bangladesh; we are familiar with the anti-India campaign since 1954 elections It became a habit of some people and we have nothing to do about it," she said.

Hasina’s press conference was held on a one day notice as Zia called a press briefing two days ago to give her reaction on the "outcome of the visit" while the opposition leader deferred her scheduled briefing by one day after Hasina’s decision to meet the press.

Dhaka and New Delhi inked three treaties on security and terrorism, cross border crime and mutual legal assistance and two memorandums of understanding on power swapping and trade links while the two sides agreed on several other issues including offering India the port facilities in Bangladesh in a joint communiqué.

Dhaka-New Delhi relations witnessed ups and downs in the past several decades but it is said to have witnessed its lowest ebb during the 2001-2006 tenure of BNP-led four party rightwing coalition while the ties started improving during the subsequent military backed interim administration.

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