The visit to Bangladesh by India’s new External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is necessarily a significant step in relations between Dhaka and Delhi. The visit, coming in the wake of recent developments in South Asia around such issues as Kashmir, cross-border terrorism and the various twists and turns in the internal dynamics of Indian politics, was certainly meant to reassure Bangladesh of the continuity in its ties with India. The two countries, which have been linked in terms of history and cultural heritage, particularly in light of the moral and material assistance provided by Delhi to our War of Liberation, have in the past decade and more consolidated their closeness to each other. Indeed, where in the recent past and on the watch of people only too happy to fish in troubled waters such ugly episodes as Indian insurgents operating from Bangladesh soil was the reality, it is today a vastly different and happy picture.
The areas of cooperation involving the two countries are many and diverse, in terms of trade, dealing with criminals, clamping down on terrorism and ensuring a peaceful border. That does not, however, mean that everything has been smooth, for in a world where perspectives change rather quickly and sometimes frequently, there are bound to be certain hiccups in diplomatic ties. For Bangladesh, a concern in recent times has been the efforts made by the current state administration of Assam to deport what it calls Bengalis illegally living there. Such moves have generated a natural degree of protest within India itself. We will hope that the issue was raised with Dr. Jaishankar by his Bangladesh counterpart in their talks in Dhaka. Additionally, there is the pretty vexing issue related to a sharing of the waters of the Teesta which, we believe, has been covered in the talks between the two foreign ministers. The last five years have seen no progress toward a resolution of the issue. Now, however, with the governments of both India and Bangladesh newly ensconced in office for fresh terms, it will be prudent for them to go into serious discussions on a positive outcome that will be to the benefit of both the people of Bangladesh and the people inhabiting the Indian state of West Bengal. We trust that constructive engagement by the two sides on the Teesta issue will result from the visit of the Indian minister.
For Bangladesh, a serious issue pertains to the trade imbalance it has with India despite the steps which have been taken in recent years. We still buy more from Delhi than sell to it. It is a subject which calls for strategic thinking and cooperation on the part of both Delhi and Dhaka.
Finally, increasingly closer ties between Bangladesh and India will be a guarantee of peace and stability in the region and will serve as an example to be emulated elsewhere.