As Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, was received at the airport by her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi some hours ago, the newspapers in Delhi and Dhaka have gone ablaze with different articles covering the timing of this visit, the purpose of the visit, as well as the hidden and not-so-hidden agendas.
Dhaka and Delhi have shared a certain history which as always is the case with history is hounded by death, war and famines. Since its birth in 1971, Bangladesh and India have worked together to create and maintain a level of harmony in the turbulent South Asia region. Both the countries have been involved in SAARC and have extended unanimous support to each other over the years however the relation has been tumultuous and been crowned as the most complicated bilateral equation in the South Asia region.
So when this correspondent was asked to investigate the details of this Sheikh Hasina visit, she went from one article to another to understand the hullabaloo and following two points emerged and cleared as important points of concern for both India and Bangladesh:
The War on Water
Teesta and as many as 50 other subsidiaries flow through Bengal – the West and the East – or as we now know them West Bengal and Bangladesh. The feud over water and its distribution has plagued the Bengal region since past many years as both the governments have failed in striking a balance to reach a mutual point of understanding.
In the last visit of Ms. Hasina to India during the times of Manmohan Singh, Mamta Banerjee, Chief Minister of Bengal, actually pulled out of the meeting last minute expressing concern over the unfair distribution proposed which shall affect West Bengal. The Modi government has not made any change to that arrangement and it is still to be seen which leader takes the trophy (or water) back home.
Water & War
Apart from water, the ever-changing power equations in South Asia are going to be another hot debate point given Bangladesh’s very publicized deal with China where the Dragon aided them with two submarines.
The matter saw raised eyebrows in the power corridors of Delhi and Ms. Hasina is in a soup to prove her country’s very much debated allegiance to India given the assumptions doing the rounds that the two countries are soon to enter a military cooperation MoU which shall make them answerable to each other in times of security distress.
Also it is to be noted that Bangladesh shall be having elections in 2019, which makes this visit even more crucial and pressing for Ms. Hasina. If her Awami League Party has to make a comeback in power, they would have to tread this rope while avoiding the usual accusations of impartial leaning towards India by those in opposition such as BNP.
Also, while India continues to search her place in the world politics and geopolitical equations, it needs to affirm itself more in her neighbors, and this visit by the high and mighty from Bangladesh is one step towards assuming the goal of superpower. What happens next, remains to be seen, as to which extent the two neighbors will collate given the extremely difficult and conflicted past is a big question which is facing all of us.