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31st-May-2015

Cornerstone of our special relationship is democratic Bangladesh of liberation war

By MAINUL HOSEIN

Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi is scheduled to arrive in Dhaka on a two-day visit on June 6 and his visit will be considered a very significant one. His every move will be judged to know how his politics is different and will be helpful to improve India's relationship with its neighbours in the context of a change of mind and heart. Needless to say that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not coming to Bangladesh in the best of times. The people are reeling under the wave of shocks and grief for the brutalities and killing of thousand of migrant workers who wanted to flee poverty but fell prey to illegal trafficker. The leader of the biggest democracy is arriving in Bangladesh when democracy is gasping for breath.Mr Modi's visit will not be evaluated by how much concession India gets but also from how much fair India is to be helpful for the people of Bangladesh. Government to government relations cannot be enough for any just and durable relationship between the two countries. Mr Modi is not unaware of the misgivings and misunderstandings that grew among our people over the years in the relationship between the two countries. India relied on the government without caring that the people also count. Bangladesh's strongest foundation for its special relationship with India is the enormous help India gave us for our liberation war. Our liberation war was not simply for   breaking up Pakistan but to have an independent democratic Bangladesh and save ourselves from the repression of authoritarianism. So it has been the general expectation of our people that as successful democracy, India's help in the liberation war will be genuinely translated into her firm commitment for the realisation of our peoples' dream of a democratic Bangladesh. As the nearest and biggest neighbour, India is heavily weighed in the political calculations of Bangladesh -- both internal and bi-lateral. The foreign press often took a critical view of India for exerting too much influence on our internal politics as they saw it.Despite all our complexities and disaffection in politics and public life, the visit of Prime Minister Modi is most welcome to all as a people's leader who has come to power with massive popular support giving rise to great hopes not only in India but also outside including neighbouring countries for change. He is seen as a pragmatic leader of strong character who did not hesitate to invite President Obama as a special guest which was not so popular a move with some leftist groups. He is uncompromising in his fight against corruption in the interest of clean government. Mr Modi enjoys vast respect among the people of Bangladesh for the kind of changes he represents. Most importantly, his rise in Indian politics has brought downfall of the dynastic politics of Congress era.  If opportunity is created or sought no small country's internal politics can remain uninfluenced from outside. When India is being seen as a friend of our liberation war, India's help in the growth of democracy in Bangladesh would have been a legitimate interest. The expectation is high that under the leadership of Mr Modi, a positive horizon will be opened up for the realisation of our people's democratic aspirations as expressed through the liberation war.          The people of Bangladesh are pleased that Mr Modi with his dynamic leadership, moved forcefully to implement the Land Boundary Agreement which remained unimplemented for 41 years. In absence of an agreed boundary line the affected people suffered for long 68 years as non-citizens. Other just demands like sharing of Teesta water are also receiving his serious attention.  In spite of Mr Modi's sincere efforts it is not likely that the Teesta river water sharing agreement will be signed during Mr Modi's presence in Bangladesh. This agreement would have been greeted by the people of Bangladesh as the most encouraging new development. But gestures of the Indian Prime Minister to do justice to Bangladesh are admirable and seen as willingness on his part to meet the just demands of the people of Bangladesh in the spirit of cooperation in the liberation war. Mr Modi has already met the leaders of Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka as part of his government's policy to strengthen relations with neighbours. It is seen that Mr Modi is following a new path for cultivating good and just relationship with India's neighbours accepting sovereign equality as the basis. While in the past India used to see itself as a dominating power (big brother) to be reckoned with.   Water sharing being a life and death issue for the people of Bangladesh, it has been a major hurdle in developing improved and just relationship between India and Bangladesh since inception of Bangladesh. Sharing of water of Teesta will be a very happy development for Bangladesh. Bangladesh has been mostly helpless for too long in the past in its struggle to get fair share of water from upstream rivers. So water sharing has to be considered in the larger context. The list of proposed deals which both the countries will discuss during his visit includes some every sensitive issues for Bangladesh like amended India-Bangladesh Trade Agreement and Amended Protocol on Inland Water on Transit and Trade. Deals on coastal shipping, maritime security, a second line of credit of US$2 billion and Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati and Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala bus services. On the other hand the opportunities of liberal trade with India will have to be taken seriously by India in order to contribute to bringing the peoples of both the countries nearer. Frequent killing in the borders is inhuman and unnecessary between the two friendly countries. Border killings must not happen. We must learn to treat everybody's life as valuable and worth saving.     The good relationship between the two countries will not be determined by how many treaties are signed by the two governments, but how much goodwill and trust both the governments can generate through such deals among the peoples of these two countries. On this will also depend how such treaties will be received by the general public and how much interest of Bangladesh will be preserved.   In this age of connectivity and interdependent world, there is no alternative for peace and progress than to learn how best the countries can coexist amicably. Anything one sided will be a sell-out, not friendship.    It is our earnest hope to see the Indian Prime Minister Mr Modi's interactions in Bangladesh to be helpful in forging a new era of goodwill for going hand in hand ahead as two democracies where human rights are institutionally guaranteed for all without religious or ethnic discrimination. We have to recognise that in modern world no country is too small or too big and an explosive situation in one country affects others also. The tragedy of migrant workers is a tragic case to the point.