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Opinion

BBIN initiative: India mainly focuses on Bangladesh

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07th-Mar-2019       
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Rayhan Ahmed Topader :
The neighborhood first policy is the striking feature of Modi government's diplomatic approach. In his government's strategic imagination, India's relations with neighboring countries must receive topmost priority. If India does not resolve its differences with its small neighbors, it will only pave the way for China to exert growing influence in the region.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's charismatic personality and determined push for India's economic development have made him immensely popular at home. Modi's foreign policy initiatives are driven as much by his government's domestic political strength as by India's rising concern over rapid expansion of China's economic clout and military might in Asia. India's rise is taking place in the shadow of China's even more dramatic rise. China's assertive, and often aggressive, behavior has been viewed as a huge challenge for India because it opens up the likelihood of China dominating India's immediate neighborhood. By focusing a great deal of energy in the neighborhood, the Modi government is demonstrating that India has the capability to promote regional peace and economic integration. Rather than merely complaining about external intervention in South Asia, New Delhi is developing a regional strategy based on India's natural geographical advantages, economic complementarities, shared cultural heritage, and preeminent strategic position.
Modi is perfectly aware that New Delhi's ability to deal with Washington and Beijing can be significantly enhanced if India achieves greater strategic confidence in South Asian geopolitics. Bangladesh and India jointly resolved pending enclave's issues situating in the border zones. Now, the border-area people of both countries are noticed to live in peace and prosperity. No news of clash among them is heard. After resolving the much-talked issues, the residents freely have involved with economic activities to a great extent.
Nevertheless, recently signed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and transshipment deal would turn both economies into prosperous as well as competitive. Later, China and Japan known as fastest economies are set to be rival to Bangladesh soon if India keeps continuous supports in all areas. Currently, it is notably observed that economic diplomacy has already been started. The move for talks on various sensitive issues was introduced only for establishing relationship with neighboring India. India, a much-discussed growing economy in the world, keeps her eyes always on Bangladesh. India has kept our every words relating to different disputed affairs. According to published report in a daily, export to India from Bangladesh was US $ 361 million in 2012 where the volume increased to US $ 873 million in the first half of 2018.
India has been cooperating us in many ways since significant year-1971. The people of India always showed great sympathy towards then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) during Liberation War. East Pakistan won the battle against West Pakistan (now Pakistan) and was renamed as Bangladesh. Behind this victory, India had a great role. Gradually, their seriousness to Bangladesh in many sides is on the rise. India is the second to recognize Bangladesh on 06 December 1971. In light of previous bondage, Bangladesh expects many from them to stand with head high in the world economically. Recently, foreign minister Dr. AK Abdul Momen in his maiden visit to India has created many instances. He within a week sat with Indian eminent figures including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The minister has shown his utmost ability to pursue the present rulers of India with a view to tightening the relationship for both countries' interest. Ultimately, he returned to his birthplace- Bangladesh - with a lot of ray of hopes. India is likely to open many long-lasting closed doors for Bangladesh following signing ceremonies held recently. He left no stone unturned to meet the top politicians of ruling government. His round the clock move in all India brought many achievements to a great extent for Bangladesh. So, the nation should be proud of foreign minister because he has shown many rare performances while talking to the Indian policymakers than ever before.
Bangladesh lagged far behind in terms of economic diplomacy. But, now those days have gone. Today's Bangladesh has been the role model to world's people by showing establishment of relationship with dominating economies. In light of a series of talks held recently in India, the country's wish to be middle-income countries one would be fulfilled. There is no time to look back.  It is high time to look ahead how the economy will see hasty progress through close tie with India among others. I feel immense pleasure to know that India has agreed to our proposal on solving river disputes that was going on for long. Since Bangladesh is known as riverine country and its trade activities rely upon on river route mostly, resolving the river issue is one of priorities among others. From now on, the river would get back life. Our trading operation through river channel would be increased. That should be disclosed with high emphasize that India stood by East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) during liberation war with all out supports whatever we need. I look forward to supporting from Indian side regarding Rohingya repatriation and Teesta water sharing for which Bangladesh has been suffering from for a long. India has been able to achieve global appreciation by developing its foreign policy. So, Bangladesh has to learn a lot from India to go forward. Bangladesh now needs a lot of economic zones to gear up employment rate as well as economic growth.
Under recent deal, India has been allowed to set up an economic zone in Mongla under Khulna division that would create huge employment generation. If possible, more economic zones run by India might be set up in different parts of the country. In absence of India's continuous help, Bangladesh might face problems instantly. I want to tell very frankly that we have to reform ourselves to take the country a new height. Some people always try to work against country's interest.
Those who have no patriotism should be revised their mentality right now. Loving to the country is must prior to signing any deal.  No pacts would be fruitful if love for the country remains absent. To conclude, let us start looking after Sundarbans, world's largest mangrove forest, owned by Bangladesh and India. India has agreed to a dozen proposals placed by Bangladesh. The burning issues on trade and investment, security, connectivity, border management, power energy shipping, people-to-people exchange among others have so far been discussed in the session titled 5th Joint Consultative Commission. The present government again has proved its pursuing quality by snatching nearly a dozen benefits from India for the good of the country.
Immediately after landing on India's land, foreign minister did not waste a single moment lazily. Despite growing bonhomie, the long-standing deal on the sharing of waters of the Teesta River is yet to be signed between the two countries. While New Delhi and Dhaka have been on the same page, the proposed deal has become hostage to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's reservations. The real benefit for India of "neighborhood first" approach is that Bangladesh has provided great strategic opportunity to change South Asia's geopolitical situation. In July 2014, New Delhi and Dhaka accepted the judgment of International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and settled a long-standing maritime order dispute. In June 2015, when Modi visited Bangladesh, the two countries exchanged the instruments of ratification on the historic land boundary agreement. During Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit, India announced a new credit line of $4.5 billion with an additional $500 million for Bangladesh's defense hardware purchase.
Bangladesh is now at the forefront of India's counter terror strategy. It has emerged as a key gateway for India's sub-regional initiatives, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation and the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) initiative. Showcasing ties with Bangladesh as a testimony to India's official policy of neighborhood first, India's Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar has rightly said that if there is one example where the neighborhood first policy has yielded good result, it is in case of Bangladesh.

Writer and Columnist, raihan567@yahoo.om

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