INDIA – BANGLADESH RELATIONS, A TEST FOR LARGER FORIGN ISUESS
A report in this paper yesterday suggested the government might have, via a proposed Constitutional Amendment Bill brought in with the support of the BJP, arrived at a formula to resolve the border dispute with Bangladesh. This would mark a high point in internal consensus on solving our disputes with neighbours.
Bangladesh is, on the latter count, a test case: a country with mutual links that have not deepened as they should have, given India’s role in Bangladesh’s liberation and the lack of a core dispute.
The border issue and the river-water sharing one can be seen as spoilers while being quite solvable, given a forward-looking, even large-hearted, political and diplomatic vision.
The reported solution to the border issue, for instance, involves India losing comparatively larger tracts of land. But the obvious benefit wouldn’t just be in the form of settling local residents’ nationality questions. It would come in the form of this being a precursor to a deal on the Teesta water sharing issue — delayed due to Mamata Banerjee’s spoilsport antics.
Removing issues often deployed in whipping up anti-India sentiment in Bangladesh can lay the groundwork for more trade, closer economic integration and bringing closer the aim of having a friendly regime in Dhaka, regardless of which party is in power.
This goal is of strategic importance to India. Such principled detachment from the internal matters of a sensitive neighbour should not prevent New Delhi or Mamata Banerjee from appreciating that lack of action on India’s part on solving the border and Teesta water disputes would only undermine the present government and strengthen political forces inimical to India. That is hardly a consummation devoutly to be wished.
APRIL 12, 2013