The capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka, is all embellished with the ongoing celebrations of the country’s golden jubilee of independence and the centenary year of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, whose exemplary leadership was in great abundance. party responsible for the liberation of Bangladesh from brutal Pakistani occupation forces. The big celebrations, already underway, with the participation of many world leaders, seem more significant with the upcoming presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who arrives in Dhaka for a two-day visit (March 26-27). The visit of the Prime Minister of India is also crucial as Bangladesh is the first overseas country Prime Minister Modi to visit after nearly a year of stay in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic. Notwithstanding the COVID threat, Prime Minister Modi and his counterpart, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, had video talks on crucial bilateral issues. In short, the two neighboring countries have remained in close contact, further strengthening the ties.
PM Modi, visiting Dhaka at this point, is sure to strengthen the relationship. Incidentally, Bangladesh was the first recipient of COVID vaccines from India when the shipment was transported by a special plane. This humanitarian gesture bodes very well for the Bangladeshi government as well as the Bangladeshi people. It was a purely humanitarian gesture. Bangladesh accepted this extraordinary gesture with gratitude. Indian Foreign Minister Harshvardhan Shringla, who was immediately earlier Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka, contacted Prime Minister Hasina at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic and later India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, visited and met with Prime Minister Hasina and his counterpart from Bangladesh. The Foreign Minister is paving the way for a smooth and flawless interaction between PMs Modi and Hasina expected in less than a week.
Earlier, Prime Minister Modi inaugurated a new bridge aptly called the Maitri (Friendship) Bridge connecting India and Bangladesh over the Feni River. This is a new step which reaffirms the links between the two friendly countries.
While in Dhaka, PM Modi, in addition to participating in the Golden Jubilee and Mujib Centenary celebrations, will visit Tungipara, Mujib’s birthplace and pay homage to Bangabandhu, visit two Hindu temples in the districts of Gopalganj and Satkhira, will meet with a leading Hindu delegation. in Bangladesh, with the exception of holding bilateral talks with Hasina on matters of mutual interest. It is also said that two postage stamps will be issued in the presence of PM Modis.
Meanwhile, the heads of government of Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bhutan are already in Dhaka and some other world leaders are also expected to join us by next week. A number of world leaders, including from Russia, Canada and Sweden, sent video recordings greeting the Prime Minister of Bangladesh during both celebrations. All of them seem to genuinely reach out to Bangladesh for a number of reasons.
Bangladesh, under the leadership of Sheikh Hasinas, continuously for over a decade, has paid a lot of dividends. Its economy is shining, there is a stable government in place, the terrorist scene seems largely under control and on the social front, the emancipation of women, literacy, etc. show a constant trend. Ready-to-wear (RMG) trade and exports are picking up. And more recently, Bangladesh was declared the 68th happiest country in the world. The timing could not have been more suitable for Bangladesh.
Prime Minister Hasinas’ political stature is now on the rise. His handling of the huge Rohingya problem since 2017 was commendable. She seems to go from politician to statesman or at least that is a perception in the making. Its way of dealing with the terrorist threat has also been recognized. Since the deadly terrorist incident at the Artesan bakery on July 1, 2016 in Dhaka, there has been no major terrorist incident. The patience it has shown in the face of repeated provocations from certain quarters according to which China is drawing closer to Bangladesh, to the detriment of Indian security interests, testifies to its maturity. And, likewise, Bangladesh buying submarines from China seemed to destabilize some in India, but it handled it skillfully.
Bangladesh is an independent sovereign nation and has every right to maintain ties with other countries. Recently, Pakistan and Turkey set up new diplomatic missions in Dhaka. Geopolitical equations change rapidly. It would seem prudent to be vigilant and monitor activities rather than react. There were bitter attacks on Bangladesh when some called Bangladeshis termites or pests. Bangladesh and Hasina have shown great restraint not to be drawn into a controversy damaging bilateral relations. Fortunately, things seem to calm down and there is little talk of CAA or NRC. This status deserves to be maintained to keep the bonhomie intact. Bangladesh has so far proven to be the neighborhood’s most trusted ally and friend.
Therefore, it is imperative to develop deeper links and this can be further strengthened on PM Modis next visit. For her part, Hasina has repeatedly recognized India’s role in the liberation of Bangladesh, and Indian war heroes are decorated by Hasina for their valiant role in the 1971 freedom struggle.
Now that it is becoming increasingly clear that India and Bangladesh are coming closer than ever before, taking advantage of Mujib’s centenary and the golden jubilee of independence celebrations, the opportunity must be seized to good. Yet the security services of both countries must not let their guard down or be complacent. Elements that vehemently oppose the Indo-Bangladeshi friendship, with the help of religious extremists and in collaboration with foreign powers, can harm mutual interests in any measure. We have the brutal end of Sheikh Mujib still fresh in our memory. If the story is any clue or a lesson or two to be learned, maximum safe preparation is required. More dynamic intelligence and security cooperation seems necessary as a new chapter opens between India and Bangladesh. In the coming week, more events are likely to unfold in relation to the visit of Indian PMs, which may be worth watching with interest.
(Disclaimer: The opinions of the writer do not represent the views of WION or ZMCL. WION or ZMCL also do not endorse the views of the writer.)
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