Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh—the India premier’s first ever foreign trip since the outbreak of the pandemic has been successful in demonstrating India’s interest in deepening an already close friendship. Along with Bangladesh’s golden jubilee of independence, it is also 50 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries which makes this relationship one of a kind. In a statement issued prior to his visit, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi rightfully said that the two countries share “deep cultural, linguistic and people-to-people ties”. We greatly appreciate and welcome the warm words and friendly gesture of the Indian Prime Minister. We also reiterate our deep gratitude for India’s invaluable support in our Liberation War during which many Indian soldiers laid down their lives and for generously accepting one crore of our people fleeing genocide by the Pakistani military in 1971.
While working on strengthening people-to-people, economic and trade ties, it is crucial that both countries must also try and resolve the deep-seated contentious issues that often have had a disenchanting effect on the India-Bangladesh relations.
The border situation between the two countries has remained tense over the years. Killing and abduction of Bangladeshi nationals at the border remains high. Thus the two countries must work together to deescalate the border situation. We sincerely hope India will agree to Bangladesh’s request to use non-lethal weapons to bring down the border killings to zero.
Similarly, we urge India and Bangladesh to resolve the Teesta water sharing issue. The Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, in a visit earlier in March, reiterated that India’s position on sharing the water of the Teesta with Bangladesh remains unchanged, and that official secretary level meetings will soon take place to discuss the issue in detail, but we are yet to hear anything positive from the West Bengal state that will have the ultimate say in this regard. We hope that the meetings between the India and Bangladeshi delegations to address the water-sharing issue will bear fruit and the people of Bangladesh will be spared the suffering due to lack of water in the dry season.
We also urge India to engage in more balanced trade with Bangladesh. While Bangladesh is India’s largest trading partner in South Asia, and trading ties between the two countries have grown over the years, there is still room for a more balanced trade relationship between the two countries. In 2019-20 fiscal, Bangladesh’s imports from India stood at USD 5.8 billion, while exports stood at USD 1.1 billion. We hope India and Bangladesh will explore more diversified options to boost bilateral trade.
We are thankful to India for standing beside Bangladesh during critical times, and appreciate India’s friendly gesture of supporting us with additional dozes of the Covid-19 vaccine. We genuinely hope that the two countries can overcome the outstanding issues that continue to leave a dark shadow over the bilateral relationship between the countries to forge even stronger bonds in the long run. Indeed, as the Indian premier said, “We have no time to lose, we must move forward for change, and we cannot delay any further.” And we look forward to a more prosperous and harmonious friendship with India in the years and decades to come.