BY JAYANTA GHOSAL
Has the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, summoned the Prime Minister of Bangladesh? Yes he did! So what is this?
Previously, when Sheikh Hasina visited Delhi, we visited him at the Bangladesh High Commission in Delhi. That day, envoys from various countries came to congratulate her. Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah told Sheikh Hasina that the Prime Minister had sent his best wishes. Before even coming to Delhi, Imran Khan spoke to him on the phone for about 15 minutes.
So what’s the problem with this? It is general diplomacy.
An Indian officer called me; he was not prepared to accept the development. His question was, “Alright, did you know that Sheikh Hasina was invited by Imran Khan to Islamabad?” I asked the officer how was I supposed to know what maybe they had been discussing? Neither Sheikh Hasina nor Imran Khan told me what they talked about. But sending an invitation to his country is courtesy.
I understood that Indian diplomats, officers and political leaders were concerned about Bangladesh. I feel times are changing. One country can have a strategic relationship with another. Today, the dispute between India and Pakistan is extreme. In 1971, Bangladesh was formed after waging its war of liberation against the Pakistani army. But that’s something from 1971. It’s 2020 and everything has changed. India is Pakistan’s enemy, but independent Bangladesh is democratic. Why should he carry this baggage of history? China, Afghanistan, Iran – all want to maintain good relations with Dhaka. Everyone understands the geostrategic importance of this small country in South Asia. It is not absurd for China-Pakistan-Russia to try to have good relations with Bangladesh.
To do this, India must have proactive diplomacy. For this reason, the Prime Minister sends Vikram Doraiswami to Dhaka as high commissioner. Harsh Vardhan Shringla was very active as High Commissioner in Dhaka. After Shringla, the importance of the Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka increased. His dedication to Bangladesh was unprecedented. I have seen him as very active since he was co-secretary responsible for Bangladesh and Smita Pant was a decent junior officer.
We were talking about Bangladesh in his downstairs office in South Block and you could see Shringla’s eyes light up whenever a new idea popped up. He is down to earth. I never saw him as a snob, indulging in noble diplomats. This person from
Darjeeling rose through the ranks from Bangladesh to Ambassador to the United States and is now Minister of Foreign Affairs. Due to Shringla, the importance of Dhaka as a diplomatic post increased. Although he is Tamil, he can speak some Bengali. This is because his wife’s mother is Bengali and she is comfortable speaking Bengali.
Let’s talk about Vikram Doraiswami. He had previously served as India’s High Commissioner to Afghanistan. He is part of the foreign service batch of 1992. He was in charge of international organizations and various summits. Today India has high expectations of Vikram, just like Dhaka.
This radiant young man of 45 was the personal secretary of Dr Manmohan Singh. On Race Course Road, outside Manmohan Singh’s bedroom, in the tiny room where he used to sit and do the job as a personal secretary, I saw how he had gained experience in diplomacy. from various countries. In our country, from Indira Gandhi to Rajiv, even in the days of PV Narasimha Rao, there would be only one personal secretary, and the person appointed would be a young officer of the IAS.
After Atal Bihari Vajpayee became Prime Minister, former IFS officer Brajesh Mishra became his principal secretary and national security adviser. He introduced the practice of appointing two personal secretaries to the Prime Minister. First, an IAS agent who would focus on the internal affairs of the country and maintain the channels of contact between Cabinet, Chief Ministers and Governors and the Prime Minister. The other, an IFS officer. He would be the prime minister’s liaison to foreign ministers and all other statesmen in the world. Although Shakti Sinha, an IAS officer, was with Vajpayee at the time, Foreign Service Ajay Bisaria became the other private secretary.
Manmohan Singh did not stop this practice after coming to power. Of the two private secretaries, one was Vikram. But Vikram, who studied history at the University of Delhi, started out as a journalist – hence in his DNA lies the special quality of a journalist. After completing his training in 1994, he went to Hong Kong. He was the third secretary. During this time, he learned Chinese and Mandarin at the New Asia Yale-in-Asia language school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In 1996, he went to Beijing. He worked there for four years. Vikram became the deputy chief of protocol in Delhi. Then, in New York, he became political adviser to the Indian Permanent High Commission to the United Nations. Later, in Johannesburg, South Africa, he became consul general. After arriving in Delhi, Vikram was responsible for SAARC for several years. In 2012, he was in charge of managing the BRICS summit.
Vikram has succeeded wherever he has been. And today, when he goes to Dhaka, he is the favorite of Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar and Foreign Minister Harsh Vardhan Shringla. Do you know why I say this? This is because if there is direct access to the people at the top, the diplomat can easily make several decisions. Bureaucratic paperwork is like a noose in all countries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally loves Vikram. And Vikram agrees with the philosophy of the team made up of Modi, Jaishankar and Harsh Vardhan Shringla. Sheikh Hasina also knows him.
Therefore, it will be easier to respond to inquiries and resolve issues relating to Bangladesh. Not like a big bully but by building a relationship based on fairness. This is what Vikram Doraiswami wants. On March 3, 2020, Shringla participated in a program at the Dhaka Institute for International and Strategic Studies. There he said: I am very happy to be able to come to Bangladesh, because Bangladesh is like my own city. I have a long term relationship with Dhaka and Bangladesh.
On that day, Shringla gave assurances that the Indian government was pressuring Myanmar to create an environment conducive to the return of the Rohingya to Myanmar. Shringla, quoting Nazrul, said: Let us also divide ecstasy and misery, because in the age of globalization, happiness and sorrow recognize no borders and appear at every door the same.
It is in this context that Vikram will be in Dhaka. May his trip to Dhaka be a success.
(Jayanta Ghosal is a seasoned journalist. The opinions expressed are personal)
ghosal / am
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