September 26, 2021

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Bridge or tour, which way will the alliance come?

It was happening that day too. There is a fun thing in tea shops. There is no shortage of people to talk to. You just have to be more discriminating with the help you render toward other people. There will be no shortage of guests on the talk show.

The same thing happened that day. The Bangladesh-India Friendship Bridge was inaugurated on the same day. The discussion started with that bridge. Due to professional reasons, I had to keep an eye on the news related to that day. They were talking among themselves about all that. Suddenly, someone from the side said, “It’s good, this time if you give the whole dash with the border tuila.” We focus on the cup of tea.

Enclosing the border for the helpless people of Bangladesh during the war of liberation 50 years ago, sheltering millions of refugees, helping them with war training, weapons and ammunition and finally jumping into the all-out war for Bangladesh, is the greatest achievement in the post-independence relations between the two countries. Exchange, through which the residents of these enclaves have tasted liberation. They now have a country, they have an identity.

Since then, trade and economic relations between the two countries have gradually increased. Communication has also increased in development activities. Especially in recent times, the achievements in communication between the two countries are unprecedented. The latest addition is the first friendly bridge over the Feni River on the Bangladesh-India border at Ramgarh in Khagrachari.

The 1.9 km long bridge connects Ramgarh with the subroom in Tripura, India. The bridge is aimed at enhancing direct connectivity with seven eastern states, including Tripura and Mizoram in India. The distance from the bridge to Chittagong port is only 60 kilometers. This will make it much easier to transport goods from the port to the northeastern part of India, including Tripura. The Prime Ministers of the two countries see this bridge as the ‘lifeline’ of the economy.

Let’s go back to the previous place, if not India, the price of onion in Bangladesh will go up to 300 rupees per kg. When we are ill, we advise our relatives, ‘Brother, there is no profit in pouring money here, go to India’. Our viewers of Indian TV serial went to Gogras here. I have heard that many families have broken up due to the dispute over watching serials. Then why the anger?

Because of course there is. India has stood by this country at different times. But the hanging Teesta issue, the killing of Bangladeshi nationals at the border, the imbalance in trade, and many other unresolved issues have been the subject of ‘coolness’ between the two neighbors many times, though not in a big way. However, the governments of the two countries have always spoken of ‘warm relations’.

At least two incidents two years ago caused unrest about the two countries. A BBC report claims that there is an Indian citizenship law, which has caused uneasiness even from the highest levels of the Bangladeshi government.

The second is to stop onion exports to India. For two consecutive years, India stopped onion exports for a period of time. The problem is exacerbated when Bangladeshi importers are stuck with old LC onions at the border. Although they were later released, the traders had to incur huge losses due to rotting of onions.

However, Bangladesh has benefited from this onion scandal. Although the price went up to Rs 250-300 per kg due to the first ban, now we have got many sources of onion import. As a result, India’s second round of export bans did not ignite much. Efforts are also being made to achieve self-sufficiency in onion production locally to reduce foreign dependence. Since then, communication between the two countries has deteriorated due to the coronavirus epidemic. However, despite the ebb and flow of relations between the two countries, the importance of India’s relations with Bangladesh can be seen again in this epidemic.

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Sringla paid a surprise visit during the epidemic last year. Although Sringla visited Dhaka once in March of that year after becoming the foreign secretary, the news that his surprise visit in August was important came in various media reports. According to media reports, Sringla came to Dhaka to convey a ‘special message’ of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to strengthen relations between the two countries. It is understood that the process of ‘warming’ has started.

Then the scene quickly changes. This gained momentum after Vikram Doraiswamy, the new High Commissioner of India, joined Dhaka in October. Notable among these is the launch of ‘Air Bubble’ between the two countries. This special air communication system was launched in October in the context of the closure of regular flights of Bangladesh with India due to the epidemic.

After 55 years, the Chilahati-Haldibari railway between the two countries was launched on December 16 amidst the epidemic. On the same day, the two Prime Ministers attended the Virtual Summit. Seven framework agreements, protocols and memoranda of understanding were also signed on the same day for cooperation on seven issues including energy, social development and agriculture. The Dhaka-Jalpaiguri railway is also scheduled to be launched on March 26.

While different countries are vying for the coronavirus vaccine, the coronavirus vaccine also comes from India at the scheduled time as per the purchase agreement. On top of that there was also a good amount of vaccine gifts out of the contract, which was totally unexpected. We often give such ‘surprises’ about friendship.

All these arrangements for repairing relations are going to be finalized with the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh this month. Apart from attending the birth centenary of Bangabandhu and the golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence

He is also scheduled to visit Bangabandhu’s tomb at Tungipara and two temples at Gopalganj and Satkhira.

At the Virtual Summit in December, Narendra Modi said Bangladesh was an important pillar of India’s “Neighbor First” policy. His visit to Bangladesh in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic may be a good proof of that. Because Modi has chosen Bangladesh as his first foreign tour after the onset of the epidemic. This shows how much importance is being given to Bangladesh.

This is what Indian External Affairs Minister S Jayashankar said during his visit to Dhaka a few days ago to finalize Modi’s visit.

The first is: “Our relationship is above the entrenched partnership and I believe that our bond is central to realizing the dream of a peaceful, prosperous and progressive South Asia.” His second statement was: “We consider Bangladesh as a key neighbor and important partner not only in South Asia, but also in the wider Indo-Pacific region.”

Important between these two statements is the importance of Bangladesh as a neighbor. But the fog has been created by the two kinds of words of the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh. For the first time, he said, Narendra Modi’s visit this time would be just a celebration. There will be no issues of mutual interest. A day later, he said, “there could be bilateral meetings and various agreements with the heads of state, including India, who will be attending the Golden Jubilee celebrations.”

Whatever the visit, one thing is clear, as in friendship, the interests of the country do not always go hand in hand, and the interests of the country above all else, it will be in the minds of our officials, at least the common people of Bangladesh will want.