External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar emphasised the significance of the bilateral relationship between India and Bangladesh, labelling it as a “model relationship” in the Indian subcontinent.
The EAM’s comments came in response to a question posed by Saida Muna Tasneem, Bangladesh’s High Commissioner to the UK, during a conversation hosted by the High Commission of India in London, titled “How a billion people see the world.”
The conversation took place at the Royal Over-Seas League Club and was moderated by journalist Lionel Barber.
“I wanted to ask you that how important or integral Bangladesh is in India’s foreign policy, particularly in pursuing its security, regional connectivity, shared prosperity,” questioned Saida Muna Tasneem.
In response, Jaishankar highlighted the collaborative efforts in restructuring the neighbourhood, citing substantial achievements in resolving territorial disputes.
“We have settled our land boundary with Bangladesh, which is really a very big deal. We had differences on our maritime boundary. We went for arbitration. So at the very least, it’s a very good example to some other regions and countries,” noted Jaishankar, emphasising the commitment to diplomatic solutions.
The EAM also acknowledged the transformative changes over the past decade, citing the inauguration of two rail lines and a power plant connecting India and Bangladesh. The strategic use of Bangladeshi ports for India’s northeast and the mutual benefits of energy supplies through pipelines further exemplify the depth of the relationship.
“In the last 10 years, we’ve had two rail lines between India and Bangladesh which were inaugurated. A power plant which was inaugurated. We are using Bangladeshi ports for our northeast. They are benefiting by more traffic coming through the ports.” Jaishankar added.
“So actually, today, India-Bangladesh relations stand out in the Indian subcontinent as a model relationship in terms of benefits of regional cooperation,” he said.
The External Affairs Minister earlier mentioned “excessive disruption,” which he said were needed to managed and handled skilfully.
In the discussion, Jaishankar also highlighted India’s nuanced approach to disruptions, emphasising the need for skillful management. Reflecting on a historical disruption, he noted, “In my previous remark, I used the adjective excessive disruption, so even disruptions need to be managed and handled with a certain amount of skill. But the answer is yes...1971 was a disruption.”
Jaishankar delved into the impact of the 1971 disruption, emphasising its role in revealing the untenability of the partition outcome and reshaping the subcontinent. He articulated, “It took a partitioned subcontinent and brought out the untenability of the outcome of the partition and really created a different construct in the subcontinent.”
Jaishankar also noted the economic progress of what was then considered the less developed part of Pakistan, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
He said, “Interestingly, what was then the poorer part, the less developed part of Pakistan (East Pakistan, now Bangladesh), has actually done much better economically.”
This acknowledgement highlights the positive economic trajectory of Bangladesh since the historical events of 1971.