Prime minister Sheikh Hasina and prime minister Narendra Modi during their summit meeting in New Delhi renewed their political commitment to take relations between two countries forward. However, there is no progress over the Teesta treaty, long expected by Bangladesh, and the matter remains unresolved.
This time, an MoU has been signed to withdraw water of Kushiyara river. India has offered Bangladesh free transit facilities to export goods to a third country. India has also made a proposal to construct a highway in Bangladesh to connect its state of West Bengal with the state of Meghalaya. Bangladesh has requested India to ensure supply of essential commodities including diesel, rice and wheat.
About signing these MoUs and proposals during the prime minister's India tour, diplomats and analysts said there were the expectations surrounding the trip of prime minister, there are gains as well as disappointments. Some said the trip reveals continuity of close relations. However, there are no big gains. Some say India, in its own interests, has to attach special importance on the close relationship with Bangladesh to take forward relations.
The Teesta treaty has been stuck for 11 years. There were not expectations that the treaty will be signed this time. The Bangladesh prime minister had raised the issue in the last two summit meetings.
On the part of the Indian prime minister, an assurance was given to make an all-out effort in that regard. Even that assurance of India was absent this time in the joint statement issued after the summit meeting.
Progress of different issues of connectivity and sub-regional cooperation were mentioned during the meeting between two countries. However, the analysts said when it is being said that discussion were to take place over the signing the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), attention must be paid to implement projects of connectivity and previous decisions. If not, benefits would not be gained.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, former foreign secretary Touhid Hossain said the prime minister's India trip this time is a continuity of visits at the highest political level between two countries. There was nothing of special significance in the joint statement issued after the summit meeting. Some matters were mentioned for the sake of relations. Again, there are elements of disappointment in the statement too. It is hoped that the two sides will an make an effort to remove these disappointments.
The joint statement, alongside bilateral connectivity, placed emphasis on regional connectivity, fuel oil and food security. On the part of India, it is being said India is focussing on the issues of establishing a pipeline to supply fuel to Bangladesh and launching an interconnected transmission pipeline to bring electricity from Nepal and Bhutan alongside India to Bangladesh.
Former Indian foreign secretary and the country's G-20 coordinator Harsh Vardhan Shringla told Prothom Alo on Friday, "We are going through very uncertain times in the global and geopolitical perspectives. The Russia-Ukraine war has created threats to fuel oil and food security. The two top leaders discussed the global issues. This trip has got an importance in a sense that one country extends strong support to another country to face any unwarranted challenges.
According to Harsh V Pant, vice president of Delhi based research organisation Observer Research Foundation, attention should be given to ensure that relations between Dhaka and Delhi remain strong in order to garner benefits from the geographical location.
Speaking to this correspondent on Friday, he said global politics has focus on the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
According to Harsh Pant, India's relations with Bangladesh are quite stable, given the overall South Asian context. There are differences over various issues between two countries, but two countries can put forward their respective opinions. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina has quite openly expressed her differing views.
While pointing out the importance of relations between India and Bangladesh, Jyoti Malhotra, advisory editor of the Indian media site The Print, in an article raised the issue of transportation of fuel from Meghalaya to Tripura via Bangladesh.
She said ten fuel tankers from Meghalaya entered Bangladesh on 25 August in the afternoon, and the tankers reached Tripura at 10:00pm on the day. The Russia-Ukraine war has sparked off instability in the entire world. During such a crisis period, the transportation of goods from one part of India to another part via Bangladesh is incredible. Both time and money is being saved.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print and online editions, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.