Modi in Bangladesh: A Complex Calculation

On a two day state visit (June 6-7, 2015), Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently visited his neighboring country Bangladesh. Much has been talked and written about it in most of the popular South Asian Newspapers and I am pretty sure, far lot more to come on upcoming days. Even the PM Modi also addressed such inevitable idea on his last Speech in Bangladesh at a Cultural Program arranged by the University of Dhaka.

Light of Hope

Both in India and Bangladesh, most newspaper defined PM Modi’s visit as a “Historic” one. Indeed, it was historic in many ways if you analyze and pay serious attention to some of his agenda. One of the important issue was the enclaves swap deal between India and Bangladesh. Right after the independence of Bangladesh, both country signed on a Land Boundary Agreement in 1974 which initiated the process to resolve this enclave issue. Nearly 41 years had been passed but that agreement never saw the light of implementation for many political reasons. Back in 2011, when Indian PM Manmohan Singh visited Bangladesh, had also signed another agreement on this issue. Finally current Modi’s Government was able to successfully pass the Bill in the Indian Parliament.

Narendra Modi & Sheikh HasinaPM Narendra Modi meets PM Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka.

Under this agreement, well over fifty thousands people who are living on these enclaves would be able to call themselves as the citizen of either India or Bangladesh. Best part of it is, people of these enclaves would have the provision to choose their country. Personally, I think this is a historic moment for both the country. With the implementation of this agreement, a long waited issue between this two neighboring country would be resolved. What else could be better than this for the citizens of these nations?

I would definitely like to congratulate PM Modi and PM Sheikh Hasina on this historic achievement and for their tireless effort for resolving such sensitive bilateral issues. However, that’s just one agenda. Among the lists of Bilateral documents signed, exchanged, adopted and handed over during PM Modi’s visit, there are number of issues that are very sensitive and most likely to go in favor of India than Bangladesh as these Governments are yet to disclose the details of such agreements. Without even consulting with the citizens of the country and their interest, such agreement may turn out to be a fatal one, especially for Bangladesh.

Bangladeshi People’s Expectations

People of Bangladesh were particularly concern over number of unresolved issues with India, which PM Modi avoided pretty wisely on his recent visit. Rightful water distribution of International Rivers (Tista), end of border killing, reducing the trade deficit between nations, cancellation of Rampal Power Plant etc. are some the issues that Bangladeshi citizens expected their leaders to discuss with PM Modi. Not surprising enough, there were no details on these issues from either the Bangladeshi Government or the Indian Delegation. For many concerned Bangladeshi citizen, this visit wasn’t as much satisfactory as it was expected. In other words, despite the little joy over the enclaves issue, Bangladesh actually might loose quite a bit on other sides. After all, full credit for resolving enclave issue can not be given to Modi Govt. alone. PM Modi just added the finishing touch on this issue that was agreed upon by PM Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh and PM Indira Gandhi of India and then PM Manmohan Singh way afterwards.

What India is Getting

India is getting a pretty good deal from Bangladesh. Especially, from transportation point of view Indian people will gain access to use Bangladeshi land to go to Tripura and Meghalaya state through two different Bus services. Such route will cut down nearly 80% of transportation cost for India over it’s current system. Now, India didn’t specify quite clearly or at least Bangladeshi people do not know how much India will be paying for receiving such benefit from Bangladesh as Transportation Tax.

India will also gain access to Bangladesh’s two important sea port (Chittagong and Mongla). Same tactic was followed in this case as well. People of Bangladesh wants to know how exactly such initiative would be implement and how Bangladesh would get benefited out of it? I think these are some of the valid question that Bangladeshi Govt. needs to clarify to its citizens.

The trade deficit between this two nation is unimaginable and India always got benefited out of it. As far as the recent statistics goes, in the last six years the deficit has doubled from $1.978 billion in 2006-2007 to $5.579 billion in 2013-2014. Despite Bangladesh’s repeated request to allow more of it’s products to get into India consumer market, the Indian Govt. did not take serious initiatives to resolve this issue. PM Modi assured that some of the investment from India would come to Bangladesh in the form of Corporate investment which would create job opportunities for Bangladeshis. Indeed, the again the question remains, under what kind of terms and conditions such investment would be made not in India but in Bangladesh?

Final Thoughts

Historically, Culturally, Religiously both Bangladesh and India shares lots of common values and ideas. I personally believe Bangladeshi people also want to have good bilateral relationship with it’s neighboring countries. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a healthy competition with your neighboring country and definitely both country can work together on many issues. Then again, that has to be done while maintaining mutual interest and respect the same time.

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